Parents should take note of two scientific studies that came out this week and added further muscle to otherwise common sense beliefs about education and hygiene. Bottom line: your kids are going to play and get dirty whether you want them to or not. Make sure they get an adequate dose of the truth.
First, an Oxford University study of tens of thousands of American teenagers concluded that Abstinence-Only programs don’t work. A second study, though not statistically significant, suggested that Abstinence-Plus programs (teaching abstinence plus advising on condom use) probably do work. (Of course, as the article mentions, this means that were wasting a huge amount of money on policies that are ineffectual in the U.S. and likely to be ineffectual in developing countries.)
Second, a University of Michigan public health study found that antibacterial soap was no better than regular soap at preventing disease. Triclosan is the antibacterial ingredient that manufacturers like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive dump into products ranging from soaps to deodorant and even toothpaste (yuck); triclosan may also cause bacteria to become drug-resistant. Of course, this raises the issue of whether we should be so paranoid about germs in the first place. Obsessive hygiene is one theory behind the rise in allergies in children. The hysteria to kill every possible germ is a new one, and you can thank the marketers at the big companies mentioned above.