Visionaries and experts have continually led the road to a better life for all and the same can be said for cleanliness. Thanks to these individuals and many others not listed here, the world became a safer place.
If you’re mindful of advertisements, we live in a ‘white glove’ society where even the slightest bit of dirt is anathema. Television commercials promote an immaculate sense of cleanliness. Radio and newsprint continue to spread the word that good health is directly related to the cleaning agent we buy and social media is replete with companies all vying to turn your dollar into better health.
If you listen to the news, infections are more common than ever and our lives are continually at risk. We hear of outbreaks in hospitals, on cruise ships and even at the Super Bowl. Not a single week goes by without an infectious outbreak making the headlines. No matter how clean we may think we need to be, we continue to be losing ground against pathogens.
If you follow environmentalists and ecologists, we’ve become overzealous in our cleanliness. These people refer to the hygiene hypothesis, which states that we are suffering with increases in allergies and abnormal immune responses due to over-cleaning. Proponents here suggest that we need to cut back on our cleaning behaviour and start to live more naturally.
Without a doubt, between the advertisements, the headlines and the special interests, the only real outcome anyone can have regarding being clean is confusion.
The article explained that 99.9% is a statistical value based on the results of standardized disinfection test procedures that quantify the efficacy of microbial kill or inactivation. In these tests an extremely high level of challenge is used, much higher than what would be expected in the real world, such that efficacy can be calculated based on the number of survivors. The level of survival is then calculated to a reduction in logarithmic magnitudes. A 3 “log” reduction in counts would equate to 99.9% kill. Thus, unless a surface had more than 1000 microbes, nothing would be expected to survive.
While the explanation was scientific, the gist of the message was to prevent panic about a non-existent legend. Moreover, people should understand that disinfectants are well tested and that by following the instructions on the label, they will adhere to good hygiene practice and have no problem staying clean.
After the article came out, I was asked a rather simple question, “Where can I learn more about this stuff?” The answer to the question was simple – I’ve done the testing and know the calculations; ask me! But that wasn’t the real spirit of the question. So, I decided to try an experiment. I would act as if I knew nothing and then go searching for anything that could give me the right answers.
What I learned was that the idea of looking for the real reason behind 99.9% kill was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Despite a Google search leading to some 1.5 billion pages, I could not find a direct and trusted answer.
It got me thinking that even in this information age; we are no better off than the miasma forewarnings of the past. The internet is rife with ideas, suggestions and opinions but there are few places that I would trust. I could only imagine the frustrations that someone truly wanting to find answers would face.
Of course, there is also the Talk Clean to Me blog.
No matter where you look, the key is to find cleaning and hygiene experts who are willing to share their knowledge, dispel myths and more importantly, bring peace of mind so that you can live confidently clean.
Eventually, as I’ve learned, the myths of the historical and recent past will be busted and you will find a way to live not only in a clean world, but also with a clean mind.
Jason “Germ Guy” Tetro has been involved in the scientific research community for nearly 25 years. He has worked on diagnostic technologies and has expertise in the food, water, air and bloodborne fields. He is currently Coordinator for the Emerging Pathogen Research Centre (EPRC) and the Centre for Research on Environmental Microbiology (CREM) both housed at the University of Ottawa. Jason is also known in public as the “Germ Guy” and has touched over 10 million viewers internationally on television, in print and through social media. The “Germ Guy” strives to increase awareness of hygiene and improve health worldwide. His blog can be found at http://germguy.wordpress.com/