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16/04/2011 / Pedanto

Dirty Talk

I’m rather late off the mark with this product, but every time I see the advert I lose slightly more respect for humanity.

Okay so first things first – the technicalities of this product. It doesn’t require too much thought to realise the problems with this system. Primarily that you will be touching a tap before and after washing your hands and thereby undoing all the benefit you may have acheived whilst washing your hands. For a full explanation see Fig.1 (below)

At some point you are going to run out of soap. Try bleach for a tingly alternative

Now for the all important FACT part of the advert: “FACT: Your soap pump can harbour hundreds of bacteria“. That sneaky soap pump harboring fugitive bacteria from our gracious protectors at Detol who only want to keep us safe and free from fear. At this point I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the bacteria as generally any fugitive being harbored (at least in films and TV) are always the good guys wrongly accused of a crime they didn’t commit. I now feel like every time I wash my hands I must be attempting to invalidate all the good that the A-Team (not the terrible movie remake) bought to this world.

Whenever someone says “FACT” (and yes it can be spoken in capitals) I tend to quickly move towards my old friend skepticism. Either it means that what they’re telling me doesn’t relate to its context, or everything else they’ve ever told me (unless it was preceded by the statement that it is a fact) has been a lie.

This advert is guilty of the former charge. Hundreds of bacteria you say? Well then I will have to ensure that I avoid touching anything covered in so much bacteria such as a towel, a sofa or anyone which lists “breathing oxygen” as one of their hobbies. Unfortunately we are more bacteria than human(1) and a few hundred extra bacteria on our hands are unlikely to change very much. An ecosystem as complex as our natural flora (the layer of bacteria we find ourselves coated in) is not going to be drastically altered by touching a hand pump. Unless you’re in a household where Cholera runs rife it’s fairly unlikely that your hand hygiene will affect your health too much.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for hand hygiene, and I’m not willing to suffer the wrath of an infection control nurse. In fact in some areas I’m more paranoid than most of the people using this product. These areas include:

1. Seeing a patient with neutropenia/pancythopenia (paients whose bone marrow has ceased to produce white blood cells and are incredibly prone to infection) as not washing my hands would probably be a little inconsiderate.

2. Being in an operating theatre. This has less to do with ensuring a patient does not get an infection (which is obviously a very high priority of mine) and more to do with my wish to retain my testicles lest the scrub nurse sees me contaminating anything at all. Sometimes I like to fully scrub up just so I don’t have to worry about accidentally touching something sterile.

3. Of course the 6 (or 5 or whatever it is) points of hand hygiene which can be summed up by “whenever you’ve done anything near a patient or anything a bit disgusting”

The adverts for these products are all family orientated. In fact the latest one shows a mother spotting her toddler as she/he throws themselves recklessly (read: very slowly) down a slide in the playground.

I understand that parents enjoy the idea of prioritising their children’s safety with products such as seatbelts, childproofed medication bottles and good old fashioned baby cages (see http://www.safetots.co.uk/Safety-Essentials/Kitchen-Safety/Kitchen-Fun-Pods/c1_13_178/p721/-little-helper-funpod-black/product_info.html). However the child that you are spotting as they slowly descend a slide is unlikely to get ill from having not washed their hands properly – the four worms and handfuls of mud you just watched them eat are slightly more likely to lead to an upset tummy.

Furthermore your paranoia about keeping your children clean could lead to some lovely conditions (potentially) arising(2). Atopy, a predisposition to hypersensetivity associated with eczema, hayfever,  allergic asthma (though not all asthma – for an interesting read see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-are-asthma-rates-soaring) has been long associated with the “hygiene hypothesis” which associates a hyper-clean environment with these conditions. It would be unfortunate for your precious offspring;  who you are protecting so much to grow up to be a wheezy, flaky, drippy teenager. I’m sure that during these formative years they wouldn’t blame your over-protectiveness at all.

Unfortunatly these adverts are designed to appeal to the boredline mentally ill. People who’s behaviour has not been damaging enough to gain a diagnosis, but who’s fear and anxiety can easily be preyed on by the kind of shister who would produce a product which produces one thousand percent more waste than a bar of soap whilst doing the exact same job.

For an effective way to avoid germs see

References

(1)^ Sears CL (2005). “A dynamic partnership: celebrating our gut flora”. Anaerobe 11 (5): 247–51.doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2005.05.001PMID 16701579.

(2)^ Grammatikos AP. The genetic and environmental basis of atopic diseases. Ann Med. 2008; 40(7):482-95.PMID: 18608118

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