Going Grubby: The Primal Benefits of Dirt, Dust and Dishevelment

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Clearly, cleanliness
is next to godliness, as they say, in this country. The number of
products devoted to the sacred rite of purging and scouring American
households staggers the imagination. (Ever roamed the cleaning supply
aisles at Target? It’s a trip unto itself.) Every strength,
size, scent, packaging, active ingredient, and formula (Would you
prefer powder, gel, spray, cream, or specially concentrated disk?).
But wait! There’s the anti-bacterial, virus-killing, and “odor
shielding” options. And, of course, we now have a plethora
of “green” cleaners infiltrating the line up. (Some more
green than others.)

But just what
do we get for the infinite invention of the last thirty or so years?
Are our living quarters really all that much cleaner than our grandmother’s
homes? Have we truly transcended the power of elbow grease, hot
water, and simple routine?

While basic
sanitation has clearly made a critical difference in human health,
what happens when old-fashioned diligence becomes super strength
obsession?

Dust

We all remember
learning in school that 90% of household dust is made up of sloughed
human skin. Yeah, it grossed us out, but is it really such a major
health threat that we use language suggestive of military assault
to “combat” it? We tend to think that there are some useful
things in there. How about pet dander? Numerous studies have shown
that exposure to pet dander throughout childhood reduces the incidence
of pet allergy and asthma.

We agree that
if you can write “wash me” in the dust on your window
sill it’s time to dig out the Swifter. (We didn’t say
we were fans of filth.) Keeping a handle on the dust that accumulates
is important, we think, but not because of the heebie jeebies elicited
by the skin statistic or any aesthetic reasoning. It’s those
nasty flame retardant particles (PBDEs) that get kicked up from
furniture and other household items we talked
about a couple of weeks ago
. (Suddenly that human skin sounds
pretty good.) Nonetheless, we don’t believe in flying off the
handle. Cut out conventional flame retardant products where you
can and happily retire the white glove test.

Dirt

O.K., this
one’s our favorite. We could write an entire post “Ode
to Dirt.” Suffice it to say, since our long lost days of mud
pies, too many of us have forgone the unique pleasure of luxuriating
in nature’s emollient.

For anyone
who’s had a mud mask or massage, you likely need little convincing.
For those of you who lived in the mud as children much to the desperate
chagrin of your mothers, we know the love isn’t something you
truly outgrow. (You wouldn’t happen to be outdoorsmen/women
now would you?) But if you don’t fall into these categories,
consider that your run-of-the-mill, basic, unassuming, backyard
soil can act as an anti-depressant? You bet your buckets! Naturally
occurring bacteria in the soil, it
turns out
, trip the neurons that produce serotonin.

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the rest of the article

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