Thursday 23 August 2012

THE ancient philosophy that one must eat a peck of dirt before he dies has gone into the discard. We are getting finicky on the subject. We were formerly content to drink most any kind of clear water or white milk, but nowadays we insist that the water be purified by the latest type of filter plant and then sterilized by chlorine gas. The milk must be clean and, beside that, pasteurized for extra safety. We insist that proper garbage and sewage disposal be provided and that the generations of the house fly shall be cut off. As a result we have the least dirt-borne disease of any age in history.

"What you can't see or don't know won't hurt you."

This refuge for careless and dirty people has led many a poor wight to an untimely end. There is clean dirt and dirty dirt. Coal soot soils the linen but does not poison us. The dirt of the machine-shop or the cornfield is ordinarily harmless when on our hands or clothes, or even in our food. Dirty dishes are merely smeared with food—perfectly wholesome food as a rule—which has been left.

Actually it is the dirt that you can't see that is most dangerous.

A lump of clay would obviously render a bottle of milk unfit for drinking, but otherwise would do little harm. A few germs of typhoid in the same bottle would be entirely beyond detection even by the most refined bacteriological technic, but might easily cause disastrous consequences.

Practically the sole source of dangerous dirt is the bodies of human beings. This kind of dirt carries the germs of typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, influenza, colds and most of the other catching diseases.

Since we cannot often tell which is the clean and which the dirty dirt it is the best policy to keep it all out of our mouths and as far away from the rest of our bodies as we can. It is very doubtful if many people eat their allotment of a peck of dirt—the undertaker gets them first.


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