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Health Team

Special thread could help fight bacteria in reusable grocery bags

Posted December 21, 2016

Reusable grocery bags spare our landfills from non-biodegradable plastic bags, but perishable products such as meat can leak into reusable bags, sometimes posing health risks if they aren't cleaned.

A Triangle-based company is researching ways to reduce risks for reusable bags.

One study showed 97 percent of people who have reusable bags don't wash them.

"The concern is actually a significant number of reusable grocery bags have been tested and found to actually have significant growth of organisms that can be dangerous to us," Russ Greenfield, medical director of Cary-based Purthread Technologies, said.

Organisms that can grow in those environments include coliforms such as e-coli, salmonella, staph bacteria and even viruses.

Purthreat is hoping a special next-generation yarn that includes anti-microbial textiles can help fight off contamination.

"We have silver actually melted into, embedded into the fiber," Greenfield said. "Silver is actually cidal to most of these organisms, meaning it actually kills (them)," Greenfield said.

The special fibers have been used in athletic clothing, lab coats and other hospital garments.

Greenfield says a four-month study at Loma Linda University compared reusable grocery bags left in hot car to Purthread bags in the same conditions.

Organisms were found in both, but there were dramatically fewer in the Purthread bags.

"The bags actually contained them within two hours - contained the growth of those organisms within two hours." Greenfield said.

Greenfield says the new bags will still need occasional washing.

This is one unique technology that taken together with regular washing - washing our hands, things like that, may help control the spread of diseases that really can be quite problematic," he said.

Purthread is working to get its technology into reusable bags being used across the country.

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