Just to turn your mind upside down, in the microworld of bacteria and viruses, size is irrelevant.
The staggering thing is the numbers.
Billions and billions of these things are all over us, all the time, so when are we going to take them seriously?
For a truly mind-numbing perspective, take a look at the animation at Cells Alive. It’s a simple depiction of how many microorganisms can fit on the head of a pin – a space that they calculate as being just 2mm in diameter.
Get right down to ten thousand times magnification and the place is teeming with E. coli, Staphyococcus, Ebola virus and the diminutive Rhinovirus – as an image enlarged a million times, not much more than the ball of your thumb, just 0.02 microns.
All of them deadly, and all of them so small that they’re easily missed – even by the strictest disinfecting procedure. If your cleaning cloth was just another 5mm to the left…
For an even more sobering comparison, take a look at Engineering Toolbox’s table of particle sizes, and the summary of how they behave.
Now imagine, at that size, how sensitive they are to air movement, like the almost nothing whisper of your hand dropping by your side.
Yes, you’re right. It means that basically they’re ALL airborne and move around with ease, taking maybe years to settle – and sometimes never settling at all.
THEY’RE IN THE AIR!
Yet just about every cleaning procedure we follow is cleaning hands, clothing, surfaces, floors… What about the space around us that doesn’t get touched? The moving space? The headroom? The air?
No wonder those nasties like MRSA and Legionnaire’s disease spread so easily. Even with meticulous hygiene, there’s nothing to stop them.
Nothing conventional, that is.
Which is why we keep banging the drum for total room sterilising with hydrogen peroxide. You can’t scrub air – and even if you could, a sponge and water wouldn’t crack it. You’ve got to kill the germs, not give them a bath.
A mega-challenge, yes. But one you can meet in just 45 minutes at a cost of around 80p for an average-sized room. And at that rate, less than you might spend on mop and bucket doing a supermarket or commercial kitchen.
And if it’s that easy, why do we ever allow ourselves to fall sick again?
You know that sign you get in the loo at hotels and airports? The one that tells you when the place was last inspected?
Well, I was outside my local supermarket, waiting for the rain to stop, when I saw something similar next to the front door.
Except it wasn’t the same.
Instead of “last cleaned”, it said “last sterilised”.
“Sterilised”. As in “all germs removed”. Like a hospital operating room.
And the sign meant the whole supermarket – plus the warehouse area and cold store – and the staff area upstairs. I know ‘cos I went in and asked the manager. A bit unusual wasn’t it, for a neighbourhood grocer’s?
The manager had this evil grin. They’re a family operation, holding their own in the war for the high street.
“It’s our secret weapon,” he said. “And we’ve got the big names cold. Next time you read about some fridge that hasn’t been cleaned, or mice in the meat section, you’re gonna remember this place and how we’re sterilised every night.”
Every night? I was surprised. Wasn’t it only necessary once a week or something?
The manager was amazing. Busy bloke, yet he took time to natter – “forward facing customer skills” I think they call it. Anyway he had ’em, in spades.
Yes, every night, because germs are all around all the time. You can fit a billion of them on the head of a pin, they’re too small to see. But we drag them around with us – on our skin, on our clothes, followed by a hovering cloud of hazard, wherever we go.
Which means that the store might be germ-free when they open the doors. But by the end of the day it needs doing again. Just like all the counters have to be washed, the floors swept and the shelves disinfected. The daily hygiene habit for business.
Then I asked him how it was done.
And that was amazing too. Because the whole thing was touch-free, nobody lifted a finger. They cleaned the place first, then rolled in this thing like an electronic wheelie bin, and hit a button.
Apparently what it does is mist up the place with hydrogen peroxide, clouds of it everywhere – all through the shop and the shelves and chillers – right into the cracks and crevices too.
Now I remember hydrogen peroxide. My gran used to put it on cuts and scrapes when we were little. Same story, to kill the germs. It used to fizz and foam like crazy. Kind of cool and it didn’t sting. Too iffy for today’s ‘elf and safety wonks.
This fog, it seems, is pretty high tech. It’s a super-fine mist, way thinner than steam or water vapour. And it’s ionised, so it attracts itself to airborne particles like floating microbes, clings fast to surfaces like worktops and shelves – underneath as much as on top – all the hidden areas that tend to get neglected.
It gets better. Cos the stuff is boosted with colloidal silver, another known germ-fighter from the old days. This boosts performance big time, because no known bacteria can survive against even minute traces of silver, especially in its colloidal state.
Forty-five minutes is all it takes. They have three of these machines misting up the place at the same time – the shop first, then the cold store, then the warehouse – in pace with staff clocking off to go home.
Impressive stuff. Which means the manager’s right. I’m not going to go spend my bucks in the superstore, even though they do cost less. I’m going to my local in the high street – a sterilised oasis in a sea of germs – and I don’t have to use that self-service checkout which drives me crazy.
Wise words. But hmmm – that doesn’t jell with those of us eating like birds in desperation stakes. Sure, we’ll lose weight if we stop eating altogether. And then? A one-way ticket to oblivion.
Eat too many calories, maybe. But ABSORB too many calories, definitely. Extract too much out of the food we eat, and so we pile on the pounds.
But how is this possible?
Unwanted additive we don’t even know is there
Look no further than your favourite supermarket.
All those shelves are loaded with food in quantities far greater than 20 years ago. Well sure, there’s more of us. More mouths to feed – the pressure is on to keep those gaping warehouses topped up.
Which puts the pressure on food producers to grow more crops and rear more livestock. Picture-book country farms have now become massive factory farms, getting everything to market in as quick a time as possible.
Uh huh, you’re right. Not possible without something to speed up the process. To boost growth in a way that makes everything fatter, quicker. From egg to roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From new-born calf to Aberdeen Angus steak in 14 months.
See what a factory farm looks like and antibiotics are essential anyway. Overcrowded, often unsanitary, those miracle drugs are necessary to keep animals alive.
Result. Antibiotics are shovelled into animal feed around the world at the rate of 240,000 tonnes a year. And the tons of manure they make become fertiliser for every kind of vegetable, seed and fruit crop. So that residual antibiotics are present in every kind of food you can think of.
Growth boosters in our diet
With every mouthful, you’re ingesting small amounts of the same amazing growth boosters used to accelerate food production across the board. Like the animals bulk up, so do you. The fat drug makes you squeeze more nutrients out of the food you eat, you just can’t help yourself.
Without your knowing or doing anything, fatness has sneaked up on you to burst you at the seams.
It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s endangering your health. Because pushed over into obesity, there’s nasties like diabetes, heart disease and cancer waiting for you. Our life-saving miracle drugs have become killers.
What can you do?
Not a lot. We all have to eat – but pretty well everything we buy in the supermarket will have traces of antibiotics, continuing our unwanted “treatment”.
One way is to go organic. But while food produced by organic farmers might tick all the boxes, there’s no guarantee that “natural” manure used to nurture their products are free from antibiotics.
Most cows excrete 80% of the food they ingest, Nature’s way sustaining life down to the smallest microcosm. That means 80% of their dose winds up in the soil.
To be taken up by plants or leach down into the water table – so that even the stuff in your tap includes traces of antibiotics.
Will power versus drugs
Uh huh. So grow your own at home. Without fertiliser, without anything. Using only rainwater.
Or just bite the bullet and deliberately try to eat less. We’ll always be hungry, but at least our minds will be razor sharp. We might be fat, but we’re not fatheads.
Let’s save that category for the long list of experts, do-gooders, authorities, celebrities and health freaks who know about the problem but do nothing about it.