Let me qualify the title statement a bit before proceeding. I do not place meals on the floor for my children to consume like dogs, nor do I let them eat off the floor in a place like a restaurant where patrons who sat at the table before us slogged through cow manure before settling down for a lovely dinner. I also do not go into a panic should they pick up and eat a chip they dropped at the restaurant. I also have three kids, so it’s somewhat difficult to manage what everyone is putting in their mouths at all times. The following information puts my mind at ease, though, so I don’t generate more gray hairs due to unwarranted worry.
As a geologist who’s had her fair share of camping trips and field excursions, I do not fear dirt and, in fact, I think it’s far cleaner than most public restrooms and door handles. I do, however fear appropriately dangerous germs such as giardia or e-coli, but I do not have legitimate reason to worry about those in most situations.
Our culture has become one of extreme cleanliness, so much so that most people probably don’t realize that all fruits and vegetables began in the dirt and some even ripened and were pulled out of the dirt just for our consumption! And, don’t they tell us that all that produce pulled straight up out of the ‘dirty’ old ground is the healthy stuff we should be consuming more of? Yes, yes it is.
Cleanliness is absolutely out of control. You can purchase almost every product as ‘antibacterial’, and once you start paying attention it’s almost impossible to find something that does not bear the label. Television and print ads project scary images of ugly germs in hopes to instill fear so that you might buy their products, and antibacterial hand sanitizer is popping up on walls of restrooms and schools so that everyone has easy access at all times. And all this cleanliness comes at a cost – it’s killing our good bacteria and making the bad stuff resistant to medicine, none of which is something we see as an effect of our new ultra clean habits.
Triclosan is a chemical used to create antibacterial products(2) – everything from soap to window cleaner to sheets and towels, and as a result of being used in to many products (even chopsticks!!). While it kills off most of the ‘bad germs, newly mutated ‘superbugs’ are forming that are totally resistant to the chemical. This chemical can disrupt the immune system and cause allergies and hay fever(3). Not only that, but overuse of the chemical will kill all the good stuff, rendering it useless when we really do need it(3).
None of this is to suggest you shouldn’t wash your hands or try to stay clean, but experts suggest you wash up after normal activities (playing outside or with animals) and that washing/sanitizing every 10 minutes is unnecessary(1). And, it might do a little good to stay away from Triclosan and all the antibacterial products as much as possible. In my mind, it’s no different than buying organic in an effort to stay away from pesticides.
So, that’s why I let my kids eat cheerios off the floor, I don’t stress about dirt, I don’t clean the pacifier every time it’s dropped on the floor (in most cases) and I stay away from antibacterial products at every chance I get. I’d like to think that has a role in the fact that my kids are rarely sick and I’m doing my part to keep the ‘superbugs’ at bay.