Friday, September 6, 2013

Shock news: your toilet is too clean

Another week, another story telling us all the things that are dirtier than a toilet seat. I can't even be bothered to link to it, but don't worry, there'll be another one along in a couple of days. The narrative is always the same: something in your house has more bacteria than your toilet seat. From what I've seen of the research - because, like almost no journalist nowadays, I looked beyond the press release and read the actual research - this is the story that should have run:

Stop over-cleaning your toilet!
Britons are so paranoid about germs that they are keeping their toilets cleaner than their sofas. 
Domestos, on the other hand, is really dangerous

The research, sponsored by Domestos (a maker of cleaning products) and UNICEF, discovered that Britain's toilet seats are now five times cleaner than their game controllers and a shocking twelve times cleaner than the arms of their sofas.

Tom Logan, a lecturer in The Bleeding Obvious at the University of Common Sense, told reporters today, "This proves beyond all doubt that people are obsessively cleaning their toilets far more than they need to, since more people lick their sofas than lick their toilet seats, and who ever heard of someone being poisoned by their sofa?"

A spokesman for Domestos added, "We've been getting scare stories into the papers for decades, exploiting not only people's irrational fear of bacteria, but also their even more irrational belief that a toilet seat should be the dirtiest object in their house and the fact that the newspapers will never question a survey if it gives them the chance to start a health scare. It's been good for sales, but even we know when we've gone too far. This research proves that you need to lighten up, people."

A spokesman for UNICEF admitted, "We're not really sure why we put our name to this one. We're still upset at being dumped by FC Barcelona and we haven't quite been ourselves lately."
Staff press-release-paster

Sadly, we got all the usual tripe in all the usual newspapers and even the BBC about how every object in your house contains more bacteria than your toilet seat, without asking the all-important question: "So what?" (a question I asked in an earlier blog post, which none of them seems to have read). 

Why should your toilet seat be especially dirty? It's a smooth, easily cleaned object that only ever comes into contact with the backs of your thighs – which seldom get very dirty and which most people wash every day nonetheless. And who said bacteria are necessarily unhealthy? 

According to this research, your games controller has 79 bacteria per square centimetre. This doesn't seem a lot, which is probably why it was reported as "7,863 per 100 sq cm", which is probably bigger than the object's entire surface area. Your small intestine, on the other hand, contains between a million and a billion bacteria per square centimetre, which simply proves how meaningless counting bacteria is.

However you dress it up, what is being reported is something called 'normality'. It didn't kill you before. It won't kill you now.

Moral: You have been reading a newspaper. Now wash your hands.

1 comment: