Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stop With The Sanitising

(This is also published on Dad-O-Matic, where it also seems to have touched a nerve....)

I've had all I can stand, I can't stand no more....

I am sick, sick SICK of hearing that for my surfaces to be 'clean' I need to have killed all the bacteria as well, for the sake of my children. What utter, pointless, dishonest, health-&-safety crap.

Firstly, the bloody Dettol advert is in itself misleading. It states quite clearly that "1 bacteria can become 2 million overnight", so you should use Dettol to be clean and safe. It then tells you it kills 99.9% of bacteria - thus ensuring that when you use it after dinner you're going to leave 1% remaining. Which means you'll be well past that 2 million count by breakfast anyway.

Bacteria Maths 101:
99.9% of 2 million = 1,998,000. Leaving 2000. So if 1 can get to 2 million overnight, that means even if you start with 2 million then use this, the next morning you'll have two billion of the hardy little buggers, all of which come from the original stock that survived your chemical attack. Futile, innit?

Secondly - who the hell says that every surface in the house needs to be sanitised to within an inch of its life? I don't plan to eat sushi out of my sink, nor have a quick snack of steak tartare on my kitchen floor. For that matter, neither will my 3yo. And I'll be making my son scrambled eggs, not performing an appendectomy on him (though if he wakes me up at 0530 again, I may feel some temptation. . . .)

For the same reason, why on earth do I need to kill off every single bacteria present on the *inside* of my toilet? I want it looking clean, sure - but let's face it, if I wake up thirsty in the night I'm probably going to grab a glass of water from the tap, not dip a glass into the lavatory bowl. Even if I'm pretty drunk.

I believe - I truly, absolutely believe - that it's hugely important for children to be *exposed* to bacteria. Pretty much all of us grew up playing outside, making (and probably eating) mud pies, splashing in puddles and $DEITY knows what else. Sure, some of us got sick. But the really cool bit is that our bodies defended us from the illness when we got sick, and in doing so developed in us a resistance for the next time some nasties came along.

I know the 'health and safety, protect kids at all costs' would dearly love us to keep our offspring in sterile oxygen tents, breathing HEPA-filtered air scrubbed of any and all airborne pathogens - and they do their level best to guilt-trip us into doing so. But that's not how we started, not how we evolved. We didn't even have antibiotics until the 1940's - we certainly lacked 'anti-bacterial multi-surface biological cleany-sterilisy fluid stuff.

Maybe I'm wrong - but if we already have a plethora of antibiotic-resistant pathogens because of historical over-prescribing of antibiotics, aren't we increasing the risk to our children by reducing their exposure to the bacteria that surround us every day? Aren't we forcing our kids back into the shallow end of the gene pool, and increasing their risk of contracting something really nasty at some unspecified future point?

These adverts attempt to guilt-trip us into using their product to protect our children. I personally think that by their use, we're doing the exact opposite.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I would go even further to say that not only the futile slaughter of bacteria in the home is a major issue, but also vaccination. A touchy subject I know, but the fact is that for or against it, vaccination is like a sledge hammer to the immune system, and I know of many healthy children who have never needed antibiotics, whose parents have seen through the misinformation and fear tactics used to persuade them to pump vaccines laden with formaldahyde and mercury (they are preservatives used in vaccines) into their babies blood streams. Once deliberately pumped full of bacteria and viruses in a way the body is not naturally designed to receive them, the bruised immune systems of most children are then prevented from naturally developing strength (which happens by catching and recovering from normal childhood deseases not dangerous to the healthy child) while the child is scolded for getting dirty, not allowed to climb trees or cartwheel at school (health and safety) and generally denied the natural instinctive expression of child hood.

The fruitless and ultimately harmful exploit of trying to beat nature instead of work with her, egged on by governments in the power of multinational chemical companies and advertisers jumping onto the 'fear mongering' band wagon, will no doubt lead soon to a bottle of disinfectant that will not only destroy all known germs, but terrorists to boot.

Unknown said...

you might find this research interesting as well.. showing that children on farms who are exposed to endotoxins ( the "bad stuff") actually have lower asthma rates.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree.

Hedgewytch said...

Nods to Suzy's comment above. It's like PC'ness this obsession with the "evils" of bacteria has gone way OTT.
AB chopping boards? WTF? Did kids suffer from Allergies and Asthma's 100 years ago as they do now?
Nothing wrong with a bit of dirt it's good for us and yeah how much of those bacteria are actually good for us?? Let's work with nature not against is.
Bring back good old hot water and bleach it worked fine for our grandparents.

Hedgewytch said...

Thought I'd share some alternatives to the chemicals...

Sim-O said...

@suzymiller, I agree with all this insistance on verything being surgically clean being wrong, but that's a bit different to vaccinations.

The sterilisation of everything is undoubtedly the cause of so many allergies that there may well be a benefit to the drug and chemical companies: Allergies = more inhalers and anti-histamines + more bullshit about the place needing to be cleaner = more allergies.

But on vaccinations, here Dr Ben Goldacre:
as any trendy MMR-dodging north London middle class humanities graduate couple with children would agree, just because vaccination has almost eradicated polio - a debilitating disease which as recently as 1988 was endemic in 125 countries - does not mean it is necessarily a good thing.