Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Open Letter to Dr. Gerba

Posted By on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Dear Dr. Gerba:

I understand your latest study makes the bachelor pad look like a breeding ground for the plague, while comparatively, bachelorettes have tidy, practically germ-free abodes. I almost cried, thinking back to the days before husbands and children, when my life was practically germ-free.

Have you considered another place where germs are breaking new ground ... the homes of working families, like mine? My family consists of two working parents with an equally busy 9-year-old son. It's an all-American home, really, with two dogs, two cats and a structure that barely passed inspection when it was bought three years ago.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, MSNBC looked at a new study by you (blog voyeurs should know that Dr. Gerba, also cheerfully called Dr. Germ, is UA microbiologist Charles Gerba known for studying germs, the nastier the better).

From the story:

New research has just confirmed the old suspicion that the residences of single men are among the most foul in the land. But things are far grungier than random socks dangling from lampshades or towers of crusty dishes teetering in sinks. After testing for germs on four common surfaces — TV remotes, coffee tables, nightstands and doorknobs — scientists learned that bachelor pads contain 15 times the amount of bacteria than do the homes of bachelorettes.

Ready to really get down and dirty in the singles scene? Seven of every 10 coffee tables checked at the guys’ places harbored coliforms — a variety of bacteria abundant in the feces of warm-blooded animals. Yes, feces. To help put this filthy finding in true laboratory lingo, we turn to the study’s leader, Dr. Charles Gerba.

“They have poop on the coffee table,” Gerba said.

Um, why?

“I would suspect the guys probably put their feet up on the coffee table. About 90 percent of shoes have fecal bacteria on the bottom after you wear them for three months,” said Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “My wife never puts her feet on the table. I do, and I keep getting told to take them off.”

Dr. Gerba, to back up your latest study, you point to your own childhood home, and specifically your mother, whom you described as "a general when it came to cleaning and disinfecting."

Most likely, Dr. Gerba, your mother was a housewife. If not, I'm guessing her haste to clean up after you may have sparked your interest in all things germ-related.

Now days, most working parents work hard to run egalitarian households (OK, I know in some cases, that may be a stretch), but in my house, we really try, which means the mopping and such has to fit around work schedules and kid schedules, and my job is a bit more 24-hour-ish ... so, yeah, sometimes a homemaker's nightmare occurs, and I guarantee there are germs that exist in my house that no bachelor has seen before.

So consider another study: the study of the working middle-class family. (Quick, before the middle class disappears! I guarantee the germs will remain.) My home is available, but I may insist on a life-time housekeeping service as payment ... or at least a visit from your mother.

Mari Herreras

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