Want Healthier Kids? Let Them Eat Dirt | KERA News

Want Healthier Kids? Let Them Eat Dirt

Oct 6, 2016

Last month, the FDA banned the sale of soaps that contained certain antibacterial chemicals. Today on Think, Krys Boyd talked with microbiologist Brett Finlay about the problem with using these soaps, hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.

He’s the author of “Get Your Children Good and Dirty.”

The KERA Interview

Brett Finlay on …

… when the war on germs began: 

“Over a hundred years ago we realized that microbes caused disease. We labeled these things as germs, and we went on an all-out societal quest to get rid of them. We brought in sanitation, clean food, clean water, antibiotics and vaccines. Frankly, it was a terrific success. A hundred years ago, 30 percent of kids would die of infections before they were 1. Now, less than .1 percent of kids die of infections.”   

... what’s wrong with over sanitization:

“We realized the cleaner we are the less infectious diseases we get. But what we realized in the last few years is that we’ve gone too far in our quest to get rid of all these bad microbes. We’ve also wiped out a lot of the good ones. And what’s coming out of the research is that those good ones are actually needed for us to develop normal and healthy bodies.”

…. the world kids live in today:                              

“Just think of the way a child lives now versus the way they lived a hundred years ago. An average kid spends seven hours a day on screen time, whereas when I grew up, many, many years ago, when you were out playing you were told to come home when the street lights turned on. You’re out there mucking around all the time.”

…. keeping children clean:

“You do not need to wash your child’s hands a hundred times a day every time they go from a swing to a swing on the playground. And especially hand sanitizer themselves, they don’t do any good. The FDA has actually banned some of the antimicrobial ingredients in these things, because studies show they don’t help. Soap and water, before dinner, after they go to the bathroom. Think of the hygiene a bit, but ease off on the total bubble wrapping the kid that you can’t ever put a stone in your mouth or can’t chew on something. If it’s probably not going to cause an infection, I’d say let it go.”

…. the germs kids should be exposed to:

“If you’re playing in the sandbox, that’s probably good. If it’s got cat feces in it, which carries parasites, that’s probably not good. It’s probably OK to lick the floor in your house. It’s probably not good to lick the floor in the subway station. So you've kind of got to do this balance of is it infectious potential or not, and will it be microbial exposure or note.”