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July 2010 Volume 12 , Issue 7 submit to us!

by Trevor Main -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

Anti-bacterial commercials leave viewers in a blind panic for the nearest anti-bacterial wipe (ABW) before they catch the latest disease. The grocery store devotes an entire aisle to scores of products designed to disinfect our bodies. Perhaps you occasionally poke your head above all the stress of heath and hygiene and ponder the necessity of it all. But like most people, you plug yourself back into the latest health hysteria before reaching a conclusion. I challenge you to consider unearthing the truth about the anti-bacterial hype.

Consider human existence a thousand years ago. To the best of our knowledge no one had yet invented the ABW, but we somehow discovered how to survive as a species. Believe it or not, most bacteria in the body benefit us. The chemicals in anti-bacterial products make no distinction between the harmful and beneficial bacteria. By using these products we actually do our bodies a disservice. Preserving good bacteria trumps eliminating the bad, but the ads conveniently leave out that part.

Fear is the commodity of the media-- in this case the fear of sickness. Commercials guide viewers to believe anti-bacterial products will help prevent colds, common illnesses, and the flu. Every few years, however, stronger and stronger viruses breach the threshold of humanity despite the acclaimed power of the ABW. First there arose bird flu. Today the swine flu rules the air. How can this be as long as the ABW exists? While the ABW evolves, the flu, and all its types remain viruses and anti-bacterial does nothing to affect them. The two are quite different.

In fact, ABWs do more harm than good, particularly for school-aged children. Though the wipe will clean the toy that children drop in the dirt, anti-bacteria do nothing by way of building their immune systems. When parents sanitize the entire world, a child's body will fail to function well.

While we worry about dirt, parks have what we call sandboxes (aka: community dirt piles,) in which children do everything in their power to infect themselves. Yet a Hot Wheels car dropped in the dirt means the end of the world. White blood cells fight harmful unfamiliar agents. When ABWs relieve them of their daily workout, they weaken. When serious bacteria, like the E. Coli found in drinking water, enters the child's system, the white blood cells serve as little more than punching bags for the bad bacteria (which ABWs can do nothing about anyway, until someone invents a wipe that sanitizes water.)

The next time any of your children drop a sucker on the ground, do them a favor by picking it up, blowing it off, and shoving it back in his or her mouth. Let the body do its job.

Despite these facts I admit that as a child I used ABWs. My mom would spit in a tissue and wipe my face; that was my anti-bacterial wipe. I rarely got sick.

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Features -- July 2010 -- Mid Month Issue