Is Our Fear of Germs Bad for Our Health?
“Even more than in past years, we’re turning to the chemical industry for help in fortifying the American home against microbial invasion. Few go as far as Jacques Niemand, a reclusive Briton who was killed last May by fumes rising from vast quantities of disinfectant that he kept in open buckets around his house to ward off infection.”
“In domestic use, there’s the possibility that some antimicrobial products could induce disease-causing bacteria to evolve antibiotic resistance. Then, as they flow down the drain into sewers and beyond, significant tonnages can accumulate in the tissues of wildlife and people with potentially toxic consequences. And it could be that dramatic increases in asthma and allergy rates are related to immune-system distortion that comes from living in microbe-poor bubbles.”
“‘We had been talking to focus groups, and consumers were coming back and saying, "I’m clean enough.” We were stuck with this dilemma. But we turned it around and came up with [the ads’] premise: “You’re not as clean as you think you are.”’“
"Even if… you could manage to eliminate those 99.9 perecent of bacteria and viruses from your doorknobs, your computer keyboard, and the change in your pocket, you would still be carrying in and on yourself a community of microorganisms outnumbering – ten times over – the cells of your own body. Almost all of those creatures are either neutral or beneficial to you.”
“But the modern arsenal of purifying products… may be reducing contact between people – especially children – and organisms with which we’ve evolved and which our bodies need for healthy development. Not being ‘smart weapons’, antimicrobial products can wreak collateral damage on harmless and friendly microbes.”