Down the supermarket aisle is an arsenal of Antibacterial Agents specifically manufactured to seek out and destroy any manner of germ that could conceivably squirm on, or into, our bodies, our homes, cars, our children and pets, in and around and on our food—you name it, there is most certainly an antibacterial soap, lotion, wipe, cleanser, or spray for it. Toys, bedding, water filters, paints (yes, I wrote paints), toilet seats, and other inventive products line the shelves just waiting for germy hands to grab them so the item can set about its job to destroy destroy destroy!
While watching television one evening (before I had DVR!), I really paid attention to the commercials instead of zoning out and thinking of the chocolate bar I wish I had (sans germs?), and was amazed at how many well-dressed, smiling, uber busy women (rarely men, huhn) there were touting products that Kill 99% of Germs Lurking in Your Home! . . . Lurking! The thought of sinister microscopic bugs crawling about made me doubt my looks-clean-to-me couch (just what the advertisers want)—I felt soooo diiiirrrrty wallowing in my germs. Surely I should have leapt up and grabbed an antimicrobial spray to drench the couch, and then in a fit of Clean Slap Happy, disinfected the floor, the counters, the mirrors, the door handles, my pillow and mattress and sheets and towels—oh my!—and when the house was sparkly and germ-free, then go shower my nasty germ-spattered body with lavender-scented antibacterial soap and shampoo—don’t forget the fingernails!
How about a reality check. Is all this really necessary? Have we really become overrun with malicious (and personified) germs bent on making us and our families not only dirty, but sick? Are these commercial claims realistic? Or, are we really in Germ Overkill?
Realistically, some bacteria are needed in our environment, in and on our bodies—we are covered in microscopic buggies, sorry to give you the willies, but this is true and always has been and should always remain so; much as we are disgusted by the idea, some bacteria is healthy to and for us. Sadly, though, those good germs are dying with the bad ones; yep, good decent law-abiding germs who deserve, no need, to live in our environment. Our very beginning existence on the earth began with Bacteria—these bacteria gave us Oxygen just by their very existence here on our Earth. You have to love a germ that made our skies blue, our waters blue, and our air breathable.
Reality check: there really is no scientific evidence that these products make our homes, and our bodies, “Germ Free,” and indeed, by over-disinfecting we may be creating Super Germs—harmful bacterial become resistant to our assaults and therefore become stronger and even more relentless. There is increasing evidence that too much “clean” creates more allergies. I imagine it this way: Our bodies know how to fight against many bacteria or else how would we have survived this far as a species?
I agree we are certainly better off and I would never dispute the scientific health discoveries that help us to live longer and healthier; however, we as a species long survived by using our own immune systems. When we do the fighting with Product, our immune systems become lazy, the Bugs become stronger, and our immunity is compromised.
Here’s an example of product overkill that is contradictory to a healthy environment. Our septic systems use bacteria to break down our waste. When we use antibacterial cleaning products to excess, these good bacteria are destroyed in the septic systems so they can no longer do their job properly. Bacteria that break down our waste product are killed off by our exuberance. I’ll give you a moment to think about this *Jeopardy Music Here* Need I say more?
Now, I will sound as if I am doing the nostalgic romp of, “When I was a kid, things were different,” just as we laughed at our parents saying, “When I was a kid, I trekked five miles to school through five feet of snow uphill both ways, without shoes or a coat.” However, when I was a kid, my brothers and I used Cashmere Bouquet or Ivory, or at our Maw Maw’s we had the luxury of Dove soap, to wash our hands and bodies with; we ate with dirty fingers when our mom wasn’t looking; ran joyfully barefooted from neighborhood to neighborhood; rolled around on the floor when it hadn’t been mopped with anything other than vinegar and water; sneezed without covering our mouths and no one sprayed a can of Lysol over our heads; traded toys without first washing them with antibacterial agents; and though we sometimes were sick, more times than not we were loud and boisterous and happy and, well, always a bit dirty—sometimes a lot dirty—until our mom ordered us to take our baths and put on our pj’s while she wished we would be sick just so we’d shut up and leave her alone! Lawd! I do believe I am as healthy as I am, danged healthy as the clichéd horse, because we didn’t obsesses about germs.
Scientific discovery has brought us many products and medicines that do kill harmful germs that do make us sick, or worse, those bacteria that can kill us. However, Super Germs will be harder to kill. Stronger medicines will have to be created to keep up—stronger means more expensive, and stronger means “maybe it will work this time, but what about next time?,” which means researchers must continually hunt for new medicines that will respond to these bacteria that morph to survive our onslaught, and research is expensive. Round and Round we go! WHEEEEEEEEEEEE!
If a consumer buys, for example, a cutting board with a claim that its manufacturer has treated it with antibacterial agents, should the consumer worry when they next cut their kids’ carrots after cutting their meat? Can you really trust that this product is “antibacterial?” If it were me, I’d thoroughly wash the “new and improved” board with soap and water after each use, and as well, use separate cutting boards: one for your meat and one for non-meat items. If one must go to all this trouble anyway, why not buy the plain old cutting boards of olden days?
And what about toys? Manufacturers of toys made with Microban tried to claim children were safe from disease by using these toys versus toys without Microban. Reality is, consumers still need to wash the toys full of germy gooey-goopness. What good is that? If I still have to wash the product, then why buy the product with the antibacterial agent? I wonder, too, just what is Microban? Sounds a little scary to me, although I’m not a scientist, so perhaps it’s just a happy go lucky little ingredient that only wants to do good in this world.
Don’t we have enough to worry about without obsessing over thoughts of invisible germs marching into our homes and bodies and foodstuff? Having a clean and healthy environment is important, but really, have we gone too far? And if these claims that overuse of antibacterial and antimicrobial additives can create those Super Bacteria, shouldn’t we back up a bit and think hard about our next soap or cleaning purchase? (And don’t get me started on the environmental impact, that’s another article.)
And finally, since there really isn’t any firm evidence these products actually do what they claim to do, our pennies are better spent on a day at the park, happily reaching into the picnic basket and extracting a non-antibacterial laced apple to eat with non-antibacterial laced fingers while lying on the—heaven forbid—dirty ground. Ah Joy! Now, I think I’ll go wash my hands with soap and water and have some breakfast on my soap-scrubbed dining table.
What do think?