In 2009 when world governments announced a new strain of influenza called H1N1, initially dubbed "swine flu", I listened with a certain degree of skepticism to the daily radio reports on the subject. There were dire estimations of how many people were going to die from the new flu and scary newspaper stories publishing the details of plans for mass graves.
At the same time, numerous commercials appeared, advertising remedies for the swine flu and well-known companies selling household cleaning items suddenly announced their products killed H1N1 in tests. Posters for anti-bacterial hand sanitizers sprang up everywhere.
I couldn’t help thinking how this situation stood to benefit such companies, who could make a tidy profit out of public fear. It made me angry, thinking of all the people who would be rushing out to buy kitchen bleach and anti-microbial wipes.
I found good old-fashioned white vinegar perfectly good enough for most cleaning jobs. I cleaned my kitchen surfaces with washing up liquid and washed my children’s hands with normal soap--just a plain ordinary bar of soap. I never fell for the glitzy marketing ploys showing dangerous invisible germs all over our homes, ready to make us ill.
Yes, there are bacteria everywhere, but not only are they all over surfaces, they are also all over us and they live inside us. There are literally thousands of bacteria in our bodies and on the surface of our skin. According to a recent news report, there are 1,400 strains of bacteria in the human belly button, some of which are undiscovered to science. We are living ecosystems and we need these bacteria to live. They not only eat up the bad bacteria but they provide our immune system with the needed challenges in order to stay healthy and functioning correctly.
To then become fixated and worried about a select bacteria seems odd and to attempt to destroy "99.9%" of bacteria, as some adverts claim, may be doing us more harm than good.
D.P. Strachan said, “Over the past century …higher standards of personal cleanliness have reduced the opportunity for cross infection in young families.