Are we sanitising ourselves into another crisis?

I have worried all the way through lockdown about the excessive use of hand sanitiser and chemical cleaning products. We already know that the overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial cleaning products causes superbugs. Most antibacterial products claim they kill approximately 99% of bacteria – that means usually all the good and most of the bad. This is obviously not a desirable situation. Because that may just leave a few bad bugs. I know viruses are different from bacteria, but I can’t help feeling all this spraying and sanitising that is happening everywhere now is it’s going to just put things out of whack even more. With no good bacteria getting a chance, immune systems will be weakened and chronic conditions, such as asthma (which puts people at more risk of complications if they get Covid-19 we are told) will be exacerbated by the fine mists of these chemicals which are being sprayed all around us, even more than usual. And are we not heading for more trouble down the line, with this WHO recommended, and government enforced sanitising frenzy? According to toxicologist Winston Morgan, my worries are justified. He says:

‘There’s concern that the sudden overuse in cleaning products and hand sanitisers during the pandemic could lead to an increase in the number of antimicrobial-resistant bacterial species we encounter. This would put a greater strain on our already struggling healthcare systems, potentially leading to more deaths. What’s more, the problem could continue long after the current pandemic is over.’

It seems to me that continuing to encourage handwashing with soap and water would make more sense and our efforts should be put into looking into the use of UV light for sterilising if we must continue the cleaning frenzy, but more importantly into strengthening our immune systems, with good nutrition, diet and natural outdoor activity and exercise, where possible including skin exposure to good healthy soil which is teaming with healthy microorganisms, natural antibiotics, anti-depressants and antiviral properties and sunlight which is antibacterial and antiviral. And also, give information on the benefits of consuming probiotics, for example in yogurt or homemade sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented drinks. Google Sandor Katz for that or read this article:

This is a paragraph from it:

‘Given how little we know about our inner ecology, carpet-bombing it might not always be the best idea. “I would put it very bluntly,” Margulis told me. “When you advocate your soaps that say they kill all harmful bacteria, you are committing suicide.” The bacteria in the gut can take up to four years to recover from a round of antibiotics, recent studies have found, and the steady assault of detergents, preservatives, chlorine, and other chemicals also takes its toll. The immune system builds up fewer antibodies in a sterile environment; the deadliest pathogens can grow more resistant to antibiotics; and innocent bystanders such as peanuts or gluten are more likely to provoke allergic reactions. All of which may explain why a number of studies have found that children raised on farms are less susceptible to allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. The cleaner we are, it sometimes seems, the sicker we get.’ (Bilger 2014)

Scientist David Strachan suggested back in 1989 that our excessively clean lifestyles were leading to impaired immune systems, allergies and asthma. I have read several articles about the benefits of sunlight and fresh air in the recovery from Spanish flu and Covid-19 and yet this has not been put into practice. Though some hospitals are starting to use ‘UV-emitting machines to disinfect rooms.’ According to Kathleen O’Neil writing about some research published in Microbiome in 2018, it’s not just direct sunlight (happily, since there is not always enough of that) but also day light or visible light which positively affects air quality. 

Would putting all this together, not seem to suggest what we have always known? That it would be healthier to spend more time outside and clean less? And does it not strike you as a bit backwards that to supposedly protect us all from this virus; we have just spent the whole of spring and most of summer in an enforced lockdown, which limited our time outdoors to one hour a day and in some parts of the world, no hours a day? Presumably obsessively cleaning with harmful chemicals – And that now we are allowed out again – many now with compromised immune systems, from lack of fresh air and sunlight, the psychological trauma of lockdown, job losses and bereavements and those suffering from the after effects of Covid-19 – are breathing in; covering ourselves with; and even ingesting a host of dangerous chemicals including ‘genotoxic agents’ which can ‘…cause DNA damage and lead to mutations necessary for antimicrobial resistance.”

(I haven’t even touched on the ways in which they damage the environment here; that is a whole other essay.)


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