I was reading about safe food supplies over the weekend. There was lots of talk about antibacterial soap.

There are consequences to all our actions. Sometimes they are the desirable consequences. We study so we can pass a test. Good consequence. We look both ways before crossing the street and make it safely across. Good consequence.

Then there are the unintended consequences. Things that happen because when we looked for a solution to the problem, we didn’t critically examine our choice of solutions. Yes, it solved problem A, but it created problem B.

Antibacterial soap kills most of the bacteria and none of the viruses. Please reread that. NONE of the viruses. They started putting these in stores so all the concerned people could wash off the handles of the carts to keep from getting cooties from the person who last used the cart. They did this during cold and flu season last year when we were all going to die of swine flu.

Influenza is caused by a virus.

So are colds.

And there are millions of variations on a theme for both of these diseases, which is why there is no cure for the common cold. It is theorized that once you get a cold caused by Virus Cold A you will never get that same type of cold again. However, there are myriad Viruses of Colds out there and you can get any of those.

Same thing with the flu. Last year, when we were all going to die of H1N1 flu and the CDC caused worldwide panic with their dire prognostications, something had to be done.

What an antibacterial wipe may look like

Antibacterial wipes were placed near carts in a variety of stores.

See above about what antibacterial wipes will and won’t do.

But we still have the wipes in the stores. Now, let’s review what they do. They kill off most, but not all, of the little microbes sitting someplace. So does regular soap and water, using the frictive motion of the actual hand washing. You may not even need the soap, but the water and the scrubbing motion are pretty necessary.

Just like Darwin taught us, the weak go first. So when you use a microbial wash, you get rid of all the weak and attenuated little microbes. You get rid of the Peewee Herman microbes. What is left are the big, strong Arnold Schwarzenegger microbes. These big, strong cooties are left to reproduce and only amongst themselves cuz there are no Peewee bugs left.

So what we get is not a safer place, but a more dangerous place. We have gotten rid of the piddly microbes and kept the biggie microbes in their place.

This is serious. Is it true with real antibiotics as well. Over prescription of antibiotics have led to Nafcillin and Methicillin resistant strains of serious infections. The bacteria can mutate faster, especially when we help them by eliminating the weaker bugs, than we can produce next generation anti-bacterials.

Wash hand with soap and water to be safe in a cootie infested world

What you need to do to not get cooties from your grocery cart is simply this. Don’t put your hands near mucus membranes (that’s your nose and mouth) while you are shopping. Don’t eat finger foods until after you have washed your hands. Use soap and water and wash for at least 30 seconds, making sure to soap up all surfaces including between your fingers. Rinse well and dry.

There, you are safe. And you haven’t made the world less safe in the process.