Friday, March 15, 2013

Caution! Too Clean!

One aspect of perspective is the practice of moderation.  I’ve said before that too much of anything, even water, can be harmful or possibly lethal.  Likewise some things that are known to be dangerous in large amounts are sometimes beneficial in small amounts.  It is a principle of toxicology that dosage makes the poison.  Now we are being told that too much cleanliness may lead to unwanted consequences.

This NBC story gives the details.  Based on several studies (plus good, old common sense) scientists and doctors believe that many of the allergies and other sensitivities that have grown more common among children are the result of over-cleanliness, including overuse of the seemingly ubiquitous hand sanitizers.  When overly sanitized, children’s bodies, on one hand, don’t develop the ability to identify and fight harmful bacteria as well because they are under-exposed, and on the other hand, may become more sensitive to any other irritant that comes along.  In the words of the scientists, “kids who grow up in less tidy environments end up with a lower risk of developing sensitivities to benign substances, like pollen and dog dander.”

Ironically, at one point in the article, the word “clean” is hot-linked to an ad for just the kind of product they are trying to discourage.  This is one danger of our over-exposure to advertising hype.  In many cases they try to scare us into buying products by warning us of dangers and telling us how much safer or healthier we will be.  They tell us to protect our families with extra insurance, with hand sanitizers or with organic foods.  They tell us to protect our environment by buying only green products.  What they don’t tell us is that moderation is most often the secret to success.

We are constantly being urged and coerced in the opposite direction, toward the extremes.  This (brave) new world of instant communications brings with it both the convenience of keeping in touch from nearly anywhere, but also an information overload from both well-meaning people and self-serving institutions trying to manipulate our behavior and opinions – advertisers, politicians, journalists. 

What are we to do in the face of this constant information barrage?  You can’t go wrong by practicing moderation.  A new opinion from the medical community reinforces the point.  Even exercise, in this case running, can be detrimental if it’s overdone.  Perspective reminds us that moderation is the key.

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