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Washing Away Health — Cleanliness in a Microbial World

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • People who grow up on farms or live in developing countries have lower incidences of food allergies and asthma because they are exposed to normal dirt and germs
  • Not all household germs require strong disinfectants: Soap and water is sufficient
  • Disinfectants and antibacterial cleaners can cause pathogens to develop resistance to them, doing more harm than good
  • Cleaning chemicals bypass the liver and kidneys and directly enter the bloodstream during skin or lung exposure
  • Personal care products used excessively will disrupt the balance of natural, "good" bacteria that live on human skin and remove valuable sebum

Have our bodies and environments become too clean? For decades, manufacturers of cleaning products and chemicals have scared people into enacting a household version of "germ warfare." If you believe the advertising, no kitchen counter, floor or tub is really clean unless all germs have been annihilated with harsh chemicals.

These same companies also exhort people to over-clean themselves with toxic shampoos, soaps and body washes. Yet, daily bathing only became a practice with the relatively recent invention of indoor plumbing; over 100 years ago, many thought wetting the whole body at once instead of taking sponge baths was dangerous and would invite diseases like pneumonia.


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