The Balanced Guy: On Dirt

More than likely, you’ve got antibacterial soap, antibacterial all-purpose cleaners, antibacterial hand sanitizers, and who-knows-what-else anti-germ around your house. Heck, I even received a pair of antimicrobial socks for Christmas this year. That’s all well and good, however, I’ve believed for years that this stuff is simply not healthy. Now, I’m not a doctor or a microbiologist or an epidemiologist (I spelled that correctly on the first try), but I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or one of the previously mentioned professionals to realize that when you kill off 99.99% of the “bad bugs” with antibacterial products, the 0.01% left over are gonna be the really strong ones that survive only to make more bad bugs that aren’t killed off as easily. A recent study backs me up. And it goes hand in hand with the folk wisdom that kids who play in the dirt are healthier than those who are too clean. Another study backs up this common-sense knowledge, as well. In fact, prior to the modern era—when most people were raised on farms or out in the country—allergies were almost unknown. Even today, populations in industrialized countries suffer a higher incidence of allergies than those in developing nations.

Simply put: Low-level exposure to germs encountered in daily life appears to help build our immune systems. Try and stay too clean and sanitized, and you run the risk of a weakened immune system that tries to fend off super bugs created by using antibacterial products… Exactly the opposite effect a hyper-clean person is trying to achieve.

While the choice is a personal one, my family and I have taken to eliminating antibacterial products in our house. And, with three young boys, the hyper-clean, don’t-let-your-kids-play-in-the-dirt issue has never been a battle we ever attempted to fight. Our challenge is getting them away from the computer and T.V. screens and outside so they actually can get dirty.

The writer of The Balanced Guy, Roman Horoszewski, is not particularly balanced but he’s trying to be. He makes an effort by not only doing “guy stuff,” but also by spending time with his three sons and wife while attempting to remain informed about the world around him. He and his family live in the Princeton, N.J. area. His blog is @

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