Peanuts- The Least of Our Problems

By: Elizabeth

Obviously, as Susuan Stasser points out, much of the economic and cultural structures built around paper are reliant upon preoccupations with hygiene and general cleanliness. Or as she puts it, a younger generation with “a  passion for clean garments and the feel of personal daintiness.” She then goes on to outline the many ways in which cleanliness “became big business,” a business largely built upon scare tactics regarding the “Dangers of Dirt.”

However these have proved to be ironic breeding grounds for this industry, as now many studies are now pointing to the potential dangers of humans sanitizing themselves out of a functioning immune system. There has been much published on this topic but there was an interesting article in The New Yorker just last month about the ways in which scientists and nutritionists are changing their tune about how to prevent (the alarming rise of) food allergies in children. Essentially the shift is one from a belief in protecting children from anything potentially harmful early on to an educated understanding that in fact you MUST expose them to these things (be they foods, germs, or “dirt”), or risk raising little bodies that never learn how to process these things and thus develop dangerously low levels of immunity.

Of course this could turn out to be the ultimate (long term) ideal for the Pushers of Paper (and cleanliness in general): If you successfully create a society of people unable to set foot outdoors without sneezing, you’ll be selling more Kleenex than ever.


1 Comment»

  cindypound wrote @

with the widespread introduction into culture of hand sanitizer, plastic has certainly entered the hygiene game aggressively. i wonder if one day we’ll all carry around our own hand sanitizer dispenser (like we do with our water bottles) in yet another greewashing-esque effort to minimize waste.

some believe that over-sanitizing in general is compromising our immune systems at a basic level. the idea of building up immunity to allergens by way of progressive introduction is very much in line with how vaccines work…giving you a very small dose of a the virus that your body quickly learns to fight off. several years ago a friend from sweden who had taken her toddler to the dr. for a check up was told to “let her child play in the dirt” to help build her immune system. for some reason this has always stayed with me.

on the topic of oversanitizing to our collective detriment, i have always been a bit of suspicious of the “anti-bacterial everything” movement. at least with respect to kitchen counter cleaners, it seems a mass reactionary panacea for the real issue at hand which is food safety.


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