Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apropos of nothing, a rant

No, it's not a rant related to bikes. Sorry.

Background: Read this article in the NYtimes about a "Mother's War on Germs".

Several things about this article, and this woman's bizarre crusade, strike me as odd and/or wrong.

To whit:

1. Mrs. Carr-Jordan, supposedly a child-development expert (she's a developmental psychology "professor", though it's not clear from the article if she has a PhD) apparently regularly takes her children to fast food restaurants. I'm pretty sure that eating anything that any of the restaurants mentioned serves is quite a bit worse for your child than the bacteria in the play area, but maybe that's just me. What kind of mother regularly buys her kids that kind of crap? Heck, the Times itself just recently published their big takedown on sugar - do you know how much sugar is in just a BUN from one of those places?

2. As someone who isn't familiar with microbiology, it sounds like Carr-Jordan is unaware that there is a LOT of bacteria *everywhere* (in fact, they are by orders of magnitude the dominant form of life on earth by both number and mass). There's quite a bit of evidence that a *lack of exposure* to pathogens as a child can lead to asthma, allergies, and other autoimmune disorders. Yes, some of the stuff kids like to play in/crawl on/eat is pretty gross - but that doesn't mean it's harmful. Both Carr-Jordan and the writer of the article fail miserably to put any kind of context on the findings - someone with little knowledge of science might conclude that play areas that aren't constantly sterilized are unsafe - when in fact that's not true at all.

3. Gross things are not usually dangerous, they're just gross. If Carr-Jordan was presenting this as a simple issue of not wanting the play areas to be disgusting, that would be one thing, but calling it a safety issue (when in fact there is not a shred of evidence presented that it is) is irresponsible.

4. A responsible journalist would have spoken to the folks mentioned at the end of the article (a representative of the CDC and the Maricopa Environmental Services Department) and then dropped the story idea. When you have one nutbar who isn't trained in any relevant science, and a whole slew of scientists and experts who say there's not a problem, publishing an article like this is irresponsible - the Times should hold itself to a higher standard. Kids play areas, whether located inside Chik-Fil-A or anywhere else, have been gross for decades, and we have not seen any epidemics due to them that I'm aware of.


Anonymous said...

She's just acting out her own phobias and projecting them onto everybody else. If this is what outrages her she must have a spectacular life.

Anonymous said...

Such nice things in fast food like ammonia-treated beef:

steve garro said...

Does she know that only one out of ten cells within our "body" is actually ours, whereas the other nine are fungi, bacteria, viruses, ect, and that we average ten million microbes per square centimeter?

Allot of science points towards the fact that we are causing serious damage to the flora of our systems and ourselves through "germ phobia"

I picked some lobster mushroome yesterday and boy, were they covered with dirt, and they are actually a giant mold causing the fungi to mutate, but I digress.....

I am said...

"Lab results — she has since switched to another commercial lab — showed that most were far from clean, she said."

What did the first lab have to say?

This sounds like another situation where a parent believes that if Timmy scrapes his knee, we'll all die of space-AIDS, cancer, and super-face-herpes at the same time.

Martha said...

I once heard a very credible expert on germs and immunology state that you should only wash your hands if "they are visibly dirty or smell bad". Words I live by! You've got to train your immune system to fight off bacteria - all this nutso germphobia is like sending troops off to fight a war without any training or even weapons! Hrmph.

My kid regularly touches and eats disgusting looking stuff out of the garden (edible, but eww), etc... I figure if it doesn't gross her out to eat it, I just don't have to watch. ;) Just keep the chemicals and toxic plants OUT and turn them loose!

Thanks for the interesting article to vent about.