Most people are aware that hygiene is important to prevent the spread of illnesses, and hand washing in particular has been encouraged over the years to help stop the proliferation of infections. But something I saw advertised on TV made me think that the cleanliness message is being taken too far.
I introduce the ‘Dettol No Touch Hand Wash’, an innovative way to get round the problem of touching germ infested soap dispensers…. This hand wash has a sensor which automatically dispenses soap when you put your hands near it, so you don’t actually have to touch the product at all. When I saw the advert, I was a little dismayed at the messages coming through.
Firstly, are germy soap dispensers a real problem in the home? Are people routinely getting sick because their soap dispensers are harbouring pathogenic bacteria, waiting to infect unsuspecting users? I think we know the answer to that. In fact, from what I know about health and illness, I would say that the possibility of getting ill from an unclean surface or item in the home is very slim.
Secondly, this is fuelling peoples’ paranoia about dirt, which is part of the ‘Hygiene Theory’. This is a theory about why allergies and other illnesses are on the increase in the modern world, and it is based on the fact that we don’t come into contact with enough dirt and germs whilst we are growing up. Bacteria found in soil and the environment can help to boost our own levels of friendly bacteria which are heavily involved in keeping our immune systems working properly; being too sanitised can mean that we miss out on these helpful bugs.
And thirdly, this device uses batteries! A bar of soap does not have the associated environmental impact or cost. The strapline for the product is ‘never touch a germy soap pump again’, to which I would add ‘Use a bar of soap, it’s much cheaper’.