Sterilizing everything is actually bad

There's a great post at the Sciam guest blog describing the science of antimicrobial cleaners, and it doesn't look promising:

perhaps the most comprehensive study of the effectiveness of antibiotic and non-antibiotic soaps in the U.S., led by Elaine Larson at Columbia University (with Aiello as a coauthor), found that while for healthy hand washers there was no difference between the effects of the two, for chronically sick patients (those with asthma and diabetes, for example) antibiotic soaps were actually associated with increases in the frequencies of fevers, runny noses and coughs. In other words, antibiotic soaps appeared to have made those patients sicker. Let me say that again: Most people who use antibiotic soap are no healthier than those who use normal soap. AND those individuals who are chronically sick and use antibiotic soap appear to get SICKER.

That's because your normal flora - the good microbes that are on every surface all the time - are also killed when indiscriminate antimicrobials are slathered all over your body/kitchen counter. Soap alone usually won't dislodge them, but that's a GOOD thing. They hold down the fort and occupy niches that the nasties want to get a hold of.

It's a thoughtful and entertaining piece, go read the whole thing.