This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a beautiful baby shower. In the midst of all the laughter and celebration I found myself standing in the kitchen grazing over the wide variety of petits fours and tea sandwiches perfectly displayed for our consumption. As I contemplated these delicate bites, I could not help but overhear two women I did not know discussing cleaning supplies. Yes, I was eavesdropping… Anyway, after a minute or two the discussion turned into more of a debate, which of course, I found rather entertaining. (Where’s the Skinny Pop when you need it?)
Both women were very passionate about where they stood regarding the benefits and risks of germ free homes. One was anti-chemicals, bacteria and germs all together – practically to the point where I was wondering where her surgical mask was due to the fact that we were far from being in a sterile environment. When she made a comment regarding people who allow “filthy animals” in their home, I glanced over and secretly wished a case of head lice on the outspoken germ expert (just kidding…maybe). The other lady stressed the importance of building her child’s immune system by being a “realist” (her word). Now, this went on for a good 10 minutes before they parted ways, and thank God because I was running out of things to eat! However, on my way home I couldn’t get their little squabble out of my mind and the valid points that each woman made. Being a bit of a germ freak as well, I figured it was time to educate myself a tad more on the subject.
I know that there is all kinds of hype when it comes to organic foods, cleaning supplies, etc… and we have focused on those topics in other articles. Of course, we all would like to lower our exposure to pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and all the other fun stuff they use to help make a chicken grow from a hatchling into a full blown chicken in 15 minutes. Well, not quite 15 minutes, but you get the idea. All of those points make absolute sense to me, but what about a totally organic home? How extreme do we need to be? Do we really help our health by living in a sterile environment, or are we hurting our immune systems in the long run? Do we make our children more susceptible to catching a cold (or worse) because they can’t fight off normal bacteria? Is that plastic spray bottle that sparked the shower debate really going to kill us all? These were the questions that were racing through my mind as I sat there on a sunny Saturday afternoon watching these two go at it.
Benefits of Organic Homes
Being an optimist, I thought first sharing my findings about the benefits of a clean home would be appropriate. So after digging around and finding a variety of health benefits, here were my top reasons why I support the healthy approach of an organic home.
- Chemical Protection – everyone knows that household cleaners are packed full of harmful toxins and ingredients, and that is one of the main reasons why I stopped using some of my old cleaning supplies. By knowing that your home doesn’t include toxins that are used on the surfaces at which we eat, drink, sleep and breathe is a great benefit to a natural organic home. To learn more about your household cleaners and the toxins they include, check out this website: OrganicConsumers.org.
- Eliminate Bacteria – it’s also proven that having a clean home helps to fight back colds and provide a healthier environment for your entire family. Did you know that the average home office has more than 400 times more bacteria reported on surfaces than your bathroom? If you work from home, then make it a point to clean your workspace as often as you clean the rest of your home to make sure your daily commute is germ free. Here is a great article on the top 12 areas in your home for bacteria.
- Reduced Allergies – another report indicates that homes that practice natural cleaning and home maintenance help children living in those homes avoid the ongoing struggle of allergies. By removing pet dander, dust mites, and other allergy inducing particles through organic cleaning practices is a great way to improve your family’s health.
- Prevent Bed Bugs – as a child, I remember my mom telling me “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite”. Come to find out, those things are quite real! Back in the day, I was working in Munich Germany and the “hotel” I was placed in was completely infested with not only bed bugs, but scabies. They washed our sheets once a week, and with only 2 bathrooms on a floor to service 16 people, you can imagine what was lingering in those rooms! I will never forget having to sit outside for 6 hours while they bombed the place. There we were, a group of 20+ models all standing around on the street twitching, scratching our hands, feet and countless other places due to those little turds. Needless to say, I threw away everything I had and relocated that very day. So, while they may be a disgusting and uncomfortable inconvenience, they are treatable by most pest control companies and a good shampoo! Also, a common way by which these critters are brought into your home is through travel. Obviously, hotel rooms can be filthy! They can easily hitch a ride on your favorite sweater and multiply like rabbits once you unpack from your trip. That being said, having a clean home by using effective cleaning products are key to protecting yourself and your children while they sleep.
- Stress Reduction – everyone suffers from stress, and knowing your home is toxin and chemical free eases some of the pressure, especially for those who have small children. Toss in the benefit of not having to lock up your cabinets from harmful cleaning supplies, having peace of mind goes a long way.
- Pest Control – bed bugs are not the only thing that can come to visit your home if you don’t have a clean environment. There are so many natural deterrents for just about every bug you can think of from ants, to spiders and roaches. So if you are looking for a healthy and safe way to keep your home pest free, then check out some great alternatives here eartheasy .
Risks of Germ Free Homes
On the flip side to every coin is the fact that there are some real risks of having a germ free home. I will admit it was quite a bit harder to find the cons to this argument, due to the fact that more people have educated themselves and are adopting a healthy way of life. But, by opting in for an organic abode many of us may be putting ourselves and our children at risk for health factors we were not even aware of. While I like to believe my hard work scrubbing the kitchen counter is worth it, here are some startling facts about having a clean home that might surprise you.
- Risk of Immunity – while it is no secret, germs help us build our immunity and the biggest risk I could find when doing my research was the high susceptibility of infections and complications to younger children and infants when living in a germ free home. Having a degree of exposure to bacteria helps our body identify those foreign elements and build our immunity in a natural and healthy way, so if we are eliminating 99% of germs all the time, then we are putting ourselves and our children at a much higher risk of not having the proper immune system to fight back common colds. Here is a very informative article about germs and immunity from WebMD.
- Hyper Allergic Reactions – in addition to the risk of immunity, when you live in a home that is completely sanitary, then when you are venturing out into the world on a daily basis many people have reported more severe reactions to local pollen and other allergens. Living in a bubble without the normal exposure to natures allergens prevents you from building up a resistance to them and cause you and your family to suffer more when you are exposed to them.
- Asthma and Wheezing Risks – another report I found indicated that children who lived in a germ free home had increased risk of asthma complications and early childhood wheezing. Yes, we stated above that ridding your home of allergens was a plus, and it is. But having too much of a good thing in this case, can actually be bad. Finding a happy medium is the best way to go. Without your body given the chance to naturally filter out allergies, pollen and other particles, some find it harder to develop the healthy lung protection they need at an early age.
- No Pet Zone – Clearly, the baby shower germ expert hit a nerve with me regarding our “filthy animals”. After a bit of digging I found a report that challenged her expertise, and I feel the need to share it here as well. While many of us are truly allergic to some types of animals, this study at time.com showed that children who did not grow up with pets suffered from more allergies later on in life than those who did.
As a supporter of a healthy lifestyle, its always important to understand all aspects of your health practice. Next time you are planning to clean your home, I encourage you to take a look at the pros and cons of an organic environment and make sure that it is the right fit for you.