Germ Warfare

Published January 1, 2003

Most Americans are losing the battle against germs. Close to half of 1,000 people surveyed allow dust to accumulate in their vacuum cleaners for more than six months. Ideally, vacuum cleaners should be emptied monthly to control the release of bacteria into the air.

Nearly half of the study participants said they never sanitize their toothbrush, although you can do so daily using peroxide or mouthwash, to protect against germs from the toilet. That’s right! Bacteria can spray out as much as 20 feet upward when a toilet is flushed.

Sponges make a nice breeding ground for bacteria. Disinfect weekly with Lysol or a homemade mixture of bleach and water. Half the folks surveyed use the same sponge or dishrag for all kitchen-cleaning jobs. While thorough cleaning typically kills bacteria, a sponge that is used to clean food particles from a cutting board can pick up germs. A contaminated sponge used to wipe a child’s hands before a meal could lead to an infection.

Sometimes we overlook cross-contamination caused by poor household hygiene in food-borne illnesses. We attribute infection to bacteria contained in something we ate, rather than contaminated from something we touched.

Bacteria cannot survive in dry environments; so let those sponges and dishrags air out overnight and between uses.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.