Are we too clean?

SheepFollowing the outbreak of E.coli on a variety of farms around the UK, there are a number of calls to introduce specific petting farm rules to reduce these risks.

While I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t wash our hands after we’ve been to the farm, it strikes me that we’ve been getting ever more obsessed with ‘cleanliness’ as a society over the past decade.

Most parents and their parents will tell you that eating a bit of dirt ‘never did me/you any harm’ and I remember being a particularly messy child, always fond of falling into rivers and muddy puddles.

But when I was a kid, there was only one child who suffered from eczema and very few of us who had asthma.

Now ever other person seems to suffer. Allergies are on the rise, regardless of how careful expectant and new parents are, and it’s become the norm to not be able to eat certain foods, rather than scoff everything.

But what’s contributed to it? There seem to be a number of different factors which, lumped together, make a lot sense. They include:
– Air conditioning: more and more offices use it, but does a detrimental effect on employees’ health?
– Stress: most of us suffer and I, for one, know that it produces unwelcome side-effects
– Washing and showering: I didn’t shower every day as a kid and it wasn’t such a big deal before the mid-80s. Has this had an effect?
– Pollution: a bit of a given
– Diet: many of us eat more processed food than ever
– Chemicals: even though there’s a move to reduce packaging, ever more chemicals are used in today’s society. I for one have always been baffled by the use of something called Microban in plastic containers. I’m sure it does a fine job as an anti-bacterial agent, but can’t plastic containers just rely on being properly washed and dried?

I’m sure we’ll probably never know for sure whether you can be ‘too clean’, but I for one would like to return to those more innocent times of being a kid, when worrying about an allergy was the furthest thing from my mind.

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