These days, there is so much attention paid to germs (namely, the eradication of them) that it’s a wonder that anybody growing up back in the old days ever survived. Back in the 70’s, germs weren’t such a big deal. The old saying went, “you’ve got to eat a bucket of dirt before you die”, and we got a good start on it as kids, let me tell you.
As kids, we didn’t worry about germs. We ate food that fell on the ground; we kissed our pets on the mouth, and passed chewing gum back and forth from one kid to another. And we were healthy. My Mother, although a very clean person, did not run around with a tool belt full of assorted disinfectants and Handi-Wipes, obsessively sanitizing every surface we touched. However, that seems exactly what is happening today, in many cases, and researchers are linking this anti-germ obsession with an ever-increasing epidemic of asthma, allergies and other diseases.
Sit and watch an hour or two of daytime television sometime, and count the number of advertisements that in various ways exhort, implore, and demand that you are a negligent parent if you do not use their product to sanitize the hell out of your environment. You may just find yourself astounded. There’s an army of germs on the march, and they’re coming for you! Grab your Lysol, your Purel, your arsenal of anti-bacterial soaps and disinfecting sprays! Only you can protect your family, and you’d better start spending big bucks if you want to do it.
I say forget it. I never liked the idea of my family living in a germ free bubble. I’ve never used a toilet seat cover, and I’ve never caught a disease of the behind. My kids have eaten burgers with dirty hands, and they’re still in the land of the living. Heck, just last week my cat licked me on the lips, and I didn’t run screaming into the night.
Look, the world is full of germs, and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them. The only thing you CAN do is try to build up your immune system. That’s what we have one for; it’s our own personal internal army against evil invaders, so what we need to do is train ‘em right! Put them in the ring against the little germs before you try and tackle the heavy hitters.
That’s the problem with society’s obsession with cleanliness and disinfection. If you attempt to make your environment sterile, you probably mean well, but that’s the equivalent of putting your toddler in the ring with Sugar Ray Leonard before he’s had a chance to fight Barney the Dinosaur.
And the experts agree with me. In 2009, the Canadian Medical Association asked the federal government to ban all antibacterial household products because of fears that the only thing these products do is make the bacteria more resistant.
One the bad guy in these antibacterial products is Triclosan, which was originally designed for use by surgeons when they’re scrubbing up for surgery. Heck, if I ever need surgery, I’ll just say now that I’d like my surgeon to bathe in that stuff. BUT, that doesn’t mean I need that level of protection in my home.
The problem is, Triclosan tends to build up in our fatty tissues, and has even been found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk. It is a chemical that can interfere with our thyroid function, and it’s particularly harmful to the environment. It’s believed to be adding to the development of antibiotic resistant “Superbugs”, and I for one would rather not ever come across one of those suckers.
So, what can you do? Well, let me see. Let’s start by realizing that our children need to be clean, but not disinfected. Let them get a little dirty now and then, it won’t kill them. Get rid of almost all the disinfectant products in your home, (maybe save one or two for truck stop bathroom breaks ) particularly those containing Triclosan. (There are over 1200 items in Canada alone containing this stuff.) Go back to using good old fashioned elbow grease and soap and water. Studies are showing that this does as good a job at keeping you safe anyway.
And while you’re at it, give your immune system a little TLC. Eat lots of onions and garlic, along with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts; get plenty of fresh air, reduce the number of chemicals you come in contact with regularly, exercise regularly and smile often. That’s the best prescription for health that I can give.