WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The benefits of good hygiene should not get lost in media headlines about the so-called "hygiene hypothesis," according to the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA). Recent news coverage of this loosely defined theory, cited in a few unrelated studies, suggests that "too clean" environments may somehow be detrimental to one's health.
"Let's get real," said Ernie Rosenberg, SDA president. "In very simple terms, good hygiene saves lives. Cleanliness has a highly beneficial effect on our health by combating the spread of many kinds of contaminants, infectious agents and allergens.
"The World Health Organization estimates that three billion people worldwide lack proper sanitation. And as the World Bank points out: "Poor sanitation and hygiene practices have a devastating impact on children. The promotion of sanitation facilities and behaviors can dramatically affect the number of deaths from diarrheal disease in children under 5."
"These organizations have it right," said Rosenberg. "Appropriate cleaning practices, like handwashing and surface cleaning, can help prevent cross-contamination in food handling and between people. Alongside medical science and sanitation, proper hygiene continues to play a vital part in maintaining health and controlling infectious disease."
Rosenberg suggests that the news media ask the proponents of this theory, "Just how dirty should we be?" He pointed to the beneficial effects of cleaning to control asthma and allergy triggers in the home. "Given the large body of data that tie insect and rodent infestation, mold and dust mites to serious, even life-threatening illness, suggesting that 'dirty is better than clean' is irresponsible," he said.
SDA is a major sponsor of educational materials that provide information to families on how to clean effectively to help eliminate or reduce asthma triggers such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroach droppings, and mold and mildew.
"No one is suggesting that we make our homes germ-free or that kids shouldn't play in the dirt," added Rosenberg. "But we need to be responsible in how we interpret highly suggestive studies and instead keep the focus on encouraging common sense hygiene habits."
SDA's asthma education materials are available at www.cleaning101.com/.
The Soap and Detergent Association (www.cleaning101.com/) is the non-profit trade association representing over 100 manufacturers of household, industrial and institutional cleaning products; their ingredients; and finished packaging. SDA members produce more than 90 percent of the cleaning products marketed in the U.S. SDA is located at 1500 K Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20005.