I was brought up in a house where the smell of bleach was quite common. As a family, we always used separate utensils for serving food and never shared drinks or ate off each other’s plates. If a grape fell on the floor, it was discarded. My mom put bleach in the dishwasher. Mom still bleaches her dishes and whips out a bottle of Purell faster than a quickdraw gun fight in a western movie.
Over the years, my wife has been quick to point out how irrational it is that I won’t drink out of her water glass (or let her drink out of mine), but I will kiss her.
I do all of the cooking in my house. I love to cook and was brought up valuing family meals with high quality food. But, I think one of the reasons why I’ve always cooked for myself (and now my family) is because others’ cleanliness standards were below mine.
Over the past few years, I’ve experienced a transformation. I’ve now boomeranged over to the Dark (dirty) Side. I eat off my kids’ plates. I eat stuff that’s fallen on the ground. I share drinks. I eat snacks that have been tainted with grubby kids’ fingers. I eat my meat and seafood even more rare than before. My eggs are now over VERY easy.
I no longer view germs as the enemy, or at least I no longer view them as intruders that my body can’t easily defeat. Sure, bacteria is sometimes deadly, but my gut-feel risk analysis tells me I’ll be OK.
My defection has been more of a journey than an event. It started years ago with a book I read called Eat, Drink, and Be Merry by Dr. Dean Edell. The premise is that people need to relax more about the threat of germs and disease- worrying is actually bad for our health. He provides data and examples of Americans’ hysteria over bacteria- and how the media and the medical profession has fueled this frenzy. [For some very interesting excerpts, see below in the comments section.]
I was pushed further towards the Dark Side when, on a recent car trip, we were showing our kids the Cosmos series on the car TV. In an episode called “One Voice In The Cosmic Fugue” Carl Sagan explains: due to billions of years of natural selection, life has thrived. The human race and all organisms today represent 4 billion years of perfect evolutionary adaptation. In a nutshell, I now trust and have confidence in my body’s immune system.
Last week, I received a timely and very interesting email from a customer:
I am typically on my own in the store and thus rarely have need of a restroom, but I used the one there for the first time last week. While I did note that the soap there is apparently “Triclosan free,” I question why MOMs is reinforcing the use of “antibacterial” soap at all? As a researcher and health and safety advocate, I’ve been frustrated by antibacterial products on the market now for more than a decade. You probably know that antibacterial soap, whether Triclosan or other, cleans no better than regular soap. While your store may be choosing a better and safer antibacterial product than that available in the mainstream, using harsh and dangerous endocrine disrupting chemicals like Triclosan and similar, I’d really like to see informed locations like MOMs… going further to actively educate their customer base about the choice.
The customer included several links about the harmful effects of antibacterial agents. NIH investigators found that triclosan impairs heart muscle function; the American Medical Association suggested in 2000 that use of anti-microbials be discontinued; an effort to ban triclosan was introduced to the American Public Health Association. The Minnesota government won’t even buy antibacterial products anymore!
In MOM’s store bathrooms, we use hand soap with natural antibacterial thyme oil. This soap is effective, safe and shows that there are alternatives to the harsh chemicals contained in many hand soaps. While I don’t think it’s particularly necessary for our soap to be antibacterial (even if all-natural and Triclosan-free), I think this is a good compromise.
Thanks to this customer, soon there will be signs posted in all MOM’s bathrooms that urge people to think twice before using conventional antibacterials in their hand soap.