I went to the grocery store last night with a list of items in my pocket and reusable cloth bags in hand. As I walked up to the row of carts parked in their corral, I second-guessed and made a sharp U-turn for the baskets. I picked up the black shaped plastic with metal handles and put my bags inside, only to realize the items listed on that small, yellow piece of paper in my pocket were too much for this basket – and one arm – to handle. I replaced the basket and reversed back to the corral.
I separated a cart from the others and placed my bag inside just before reaching toward the wet cloths dispenser labeled Purell. I ripped off the top sheet and rubbed it on the steering handle of the cart. As I reached to the small bin below the dispenser to throw out the used cloth, I paused. A series of questions came with the persistence of a overly curious child:
“Why do we wipe down our cart handles this way? Why was I so careful to wash the cart when I had previously picked up a basket without the same level of concern? Was it because the sanitizer dispenser had not yet come into view, even though I had shopped at this store before and knew it was there? What did we do before sanitizer was in grocery stores? Have we been instilled with a fear that if we do not sanitize, we are exposing ourselves to ever-present sickness?”
I was just going through the motions, really. The need to sanitize was instilled in me far before I started shopping at the store for my own groceries. My mother carried around hand sanitizer in her purse – she still does, and I carry on the tradition – to use after a given event. Basically any time my brother and I touched something “germ-y” and before we touched anything else – particularly food – we would need to sanitize.
I don’t blame her concern for sanitization; I think her efforts and intentions were best, as mothers know. But my actions on this particular grocery shopping trip was cause for pause. What is the purpose of this sanitization? Is there such as thing as over sanitizing? Are we all over sanitizing?
It seems fairly obvious that we sanitize to kill germs. As advertised, the top brands of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes kill “99.9 percent of germs.” Most of us know that killing germs is a form of defense against sickness and illness.
As defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sanitizers are antimicrobial public health products “used to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, microorganisms from the inanimate environment to levels considered safe as determined by public health codes or regulations.”
While these sanitizers may remove bacteria that can cause people to get sick, a study conducted by Emory University researchers in 2006 found that water is more successful (96 percent) at removing viruses from the hands than alcohol-based hand sanitizer (46 percent).
So sanitization in moderation is helpful in preventing germs, but it seems to not have the power to replace washing your hands at the sink. Moreover, additional protection is needed via building up the body’s defenses. Exposure to germs allows white blood cells to combat them, becoming strong enough to ward off germs – building immunity.
According to Kansas State University, the mammalian response to bacteria entering the bloodstream is fairly standard. “The bacteria multiply and the immune system gears up, sending out its own organisms – cells derived from white blood cells called macrophages – to seek out and destroy the offender. A healthy immune system can clear the body of most bacterial infections.”
Do you carry sanitizer with you? Are you inclined to use sanitizer when it is made available to you, such as at the grocery store or at a doctor’s office? If so, why do you use it? Share your thoughts below!