A Rant About Germs

Last week Dyson got some press regarding a study about their hand dryers. The study found, in controlled conditions, that Dyson driers blast viruses all over the room. Dyson said that really it is the study that blows, and that the conditions were so artificial as to be meaningless.

From a should-I-be-worried perspective, I’m with Dyson. The bathrooms in the malls, bars, and restaurants that we frequent are already filled with germs (viruses and bacteria). The stall door is covered in microscopic bits of all sorts of gross things that come out of strangers’ bodies. So are the walls, and the sink handles, and the door handles. Also, remember, when you are smelling someone else’s waste, that means that particles of their waste are going up your nose. Think about it, be grossed out, and then get over it. Also, it is a bit more complicated than that, but whatever, now the thought is stuck in your head.

How many people in the U.S. die from germs in public bathrooms? I am betting very few (hospitals and developing countries are a different story). How about germs from your kitchen sink sponge that you haven’t changed in months? Again, it probably doesn’t happen that often, if ever, unless you believe this fear mongering garbage. Yet, we love our news reports about how germy the world is–did you know your cell phone also acts as a petri dish? And do you know what happened, at least partially, as a result of this kind of coverage? We got antibacterial soap. A terrible thing to use to clean your hands. And, sadly, something that still hasn’t been taken off the market.

The thing that you should actually be scared of is what our collective fear has created: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is the bacteria you can’t stop. It is the thing that is killing patients in hospitals. It isn’t the only antibiotic resistant bacteria out there. Does it come from kitchen sponge and poo germs? No, but it probably came from our century-long love affair with unnecessary antibiotics.

Unless you run a hospital, stop worrying about Dyson. Stop worrying about your old sponge (but buy a new one when it gets smelly). Stop worrying about your bath towels that you didn’t have time to wash last week. Just chill the fuck out, wash your hands with non-antibacterial soap and water after pooping, and dry them with whatever is available. You’ll live.

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