Stop Worrying About Being Clean, Just be

We are obsessed with cleanliness in he developed world and it is likely killing us. The over use of cleaners in the built environment and the use of biochemical cleansers (like antibiotics) are weakening out immune system. They may also be negatively impacting our mental health as well. So relax with all that germaphobic behaviour.

Just chill. Killing microbes just because they microbes is not a nouns strategy for survival. We need exposure to all those tiny things to improve our health and out well being.

The overall message, then, is not that we should return to living in squalor as to try to embrace good bacteria; we need to be just as vigilant without our homes to keep them free from germs. Instead, Ilkka Hanski, a biologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland, says, it’s important to get out of the house and spend time in woodlands and forests. “Let your children play in places where they have contact with soil and vegetation, which are rich in beneficial microbes,” he says. “If you have a house, don’t maintain a lawn, let native plants take over and grow taller. Cut them once or twice a year.”

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Be Healthy by Getting Dirty

Hygiene is harming us. The overuse of antibacterial everything and the kill-all solution of antibiotics seems to be doing harm to us. Don’t get me wrong – we need antibiotics and antibacterial solutions. The thing is that we’ve used them too much.

The good news is you don’t have to be so worried about over-cleaning everything. People, kids in particular, need to have some dirt, germs, and grime around them so their immune system develops.

Most recently, it’s been discover that exposure to certain bacteria can hold back asthma.

To check if the missing bacteria are protective, the researchers inoculated germ-free mice with the FLVR bacteria and found airway inflammation improved in adult offspring of the mice compared with those without the FLVR bacteria.

The findings support the “hygiene hypothesis” of how sterilizing everything may come with a health cost in the long term.

“Maybe we’ve actually cleaned up things too much in our quest to get rid of all these infectious diseases,” Finlay said. “I really do think we have to retool how we behave.”

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Germs Are Everywhere, Don’t Worry About it

Recently, a study by Weill Cornell Medical College found that the New York City subway is filled to the brim with germs. They are plentiful and easily get on you, but don’t worry. Most of the germs are good for you and the rest are more or less harmless.

Over at CityLab they wondered then if all those odd things people do to avoid germs are worthwhile.

These “good” bacteria might come from food, remove toxins from the environment, or outcompete disease-causing pathogens lurking on surfaces. “That means more [bacterial] diversity, by the odds, would be a good thing,” Mason says.

Still, here at CityLab we have to admit to falling prey to dubious germaphobic behaviors, especially during cold and flu season. None of us has started wearing a surgical mask to work or anything (yet!), but at least some of us do things like flush public toilets with our feet, use tissues to open certain doors, and slather on what has to be far too much antibacterial gel. And the worst part is, none of us can really say whether doing any of this stuff actually works.

So we asked Mason and Dr. Martin Blaser, an epidemiologist at New York University, to tell us how much disease we’re really preventing with some of our most common germ-avoidance maneuvers. (Spoiler: not much.) Keep these caveats in mind next time you reach for the Purell.

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Using Bacteria to Make Buildings Healthier

A new field of research, that doesn’t even have a proper name yet, is looking into ways we can incorporate biology into our built environment. It turns out the bacteria and germs found in our indoor worlds are vastly different than those found in natural environments. It makes me wonder what are we inadvertently breeding in our workplaces and homes.

Bacteria can be used to cure our “sick building syndrome” issues while improving our individual health too!

As evidence continues to mount against ultrasterilization, scientists are looking for alternatives that nurture, rather than eradicate, microbial communities.

One way is through “bio-active” surfaces, permeable nanostructures with “good” bacteria stitched inside. Built into walls, chairs, carpets, and other indoor fixtures, these living surfaces would continuously secrete beneficial microbes into the indoor environment. In laboratory tests with mice and rats, these bio-active structures have been found to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions and asthma attacks. “Instead of building new buildings per se, we could just refurbish all the existing buildings in Manhattan or downtown Chicago with bio-active walls or bio-active carpets,” Gilbert says.

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