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E-coli

E-coli refers to Escherichia coli, a bacterium found in the digestive systems of mammals and  birds, including humans. Most E-coli bacteria serve a purpose as digestive aids; they are part of the helpful gut flora responsible for breaking down certain foods into more digestible sugars or proteins.

One particular strain of E-coli, called E. coliO157:H7, is the form of bacteria responsible for the most serious complications associated with contaminated foods and other sources. If ingested, it can be very harmful to humans.

People can contract an E-coli infection by drinking contaminated water, eating fruit or vegetables that have been watered with contaminated water, drinking unpasteurized milk, or eating undercooked ground meat. The E-coli infection can also be caught by coming into contact with others who are infected or by working in environments where one might come into contact with human or animal feces, such as farms, day care centers, nursing homes, or hospitals. The most common way to contract an E-coli infection is by eating hamburgers that are not fully cooked.

The first symptoms of true E-coli contamination mimic a number of other conditions considered to be temporary or treatable with standard antibiotics.  The sufferer may experience abdominal cramping, diarrhea and nausea. The loss of fluids may also cause dehydration and a general loss of energy. Many people have experienced these symptoms as the result of a 24-hour flu bug, mild food poisoning or general overeating. Parents and other caregivers may not recognize the more serious symptoms of E-coli infection for several days.

Healthy adults can usually survive the worst of an E-coli infection, because other elements of their digestive tracts still function normally, and the body's natural defenses can eventually overwhelm the invading E-coli bacteria.

The young, elderly, and immunity-compromised are most susceptible to the harmful effects of E-coli. Young children have not yet developed these natural defenses, and the elderly or immunity-compromised may not have the healthy levels of gut flora and antibodies required to fend off the infection.

Symptoms of the presence of harmful E-coli are stomach upset leading to dehydration, headaches and in some cases bloody stools.

EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission is to protect human health and the environment.

General-Purpose Cleaner

A general-purpose cleaner is a cleaner specifically marketed as suitable for cleaning common household surfaces.  They do not include task-specific cleaners, such as scouring cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, upholstery cleaners, laundry and dishwashing detergents, spot/stain removers, oven cleaners, furniture polish, or drain cleaners.  This category does not include any products required to be registered under FIFRA (a federal law regulating the use of pesticides), such as those making claims as sterilizers, disinfectants, or sanitizers.

Germs (also see Microorganisms)

The word “germ” is used to generally refer to any of the various microorganisms that are harmful. Harmful “germs” may be various kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. There is indeed a possibility that you can catch something, but if you practice good personal, household, and food hygiene, you're at pretty low risk.

Germs, What Are the Most Common Harmful Household

Pathogenic germs (meaning they can make us sick) found in the home are given below.  Remember, that these harmful germs make up only about 2% of all germs, but that is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned.

  • Gastrointestinal viruses that cause stomach ailments in humans. These include the norovirus, which you may have heard of in connection with cruise ship outbreaks. These viruses aren't just on cruise ships; they can be exploring your toilet seat as well. Gastrointestinal viruses are easily transmitted and can remain on a solid surface for as much as a week.

  • Enteric pathogens, which are organisms spread by contaminated foods (and can, of course, be carried in feces). These include things like E-coli, salmonella, shigella, and campylobacter. E-coli 0157:H7 is particularly nasty, causing severe diarrhea with bloody stools. This is the bacteria that killed four children and caused a lot of illness at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in California in 1993.

  • Skin and respiratory organisms, such as staphylococcus aurea ("staph") bacteria, including the antibiotic resistant MRSA strain, and Group A Strep, known as the "flesh-eating" bacteria.

  • Dermatophitic fungi, like athlete's foot, transmitted by walking barefoot in the bathroom and other surfaces.

  • Other residual fungi, like those indigenous to showers -- the "mold and mildew" of bathroom cleanser fame. They don't cause infection, but they can exacerbate asthma and allergies.


Germs, How They Are Spread

Primarily the hands in person-to-person contact spread germs.  Indirectly, our hands become contaminated when we touch surfaces that other people have touched, mainly the following:  countertops, light switches, handles, remotes for TV, etc.; toys; phone receivers; computer keyboards and mouse; doorknobs; banisters.  These surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with an antibacterial cleaner.  Washing your hands is the best way to avoid many diseases. A person with dirty hands may unconsciously rub his eyes or nose, allowing germs into the body.

Germs can also enter a body through the mouth, nose, eyes, and breaks in the skin without our ever knowing we’ve been infected.

Cleanliness is the most common protection from the germs, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold spores that may infect a person and cause a disease. These agents need a place to gather and grow outside the body, so keeping areas clean can reduce the threat.

Many meats contain germs, bacteria, and even small parasites. Heating the meat to high temperatures long enough to kill these agents is an essential practice to avoid possible disease. Some religions forbid eating meat such as pork, because it often contains parasites that can cause problems in humans.

Germs, Per Square Inch

We often hear how many germs or other bacteria can be found on various surfaces; the numbers are usually given by the “square inch.”  For comparison purposes, a typical:

  • toilet seat has 49/square inch;

  • phone receive has 25,127/square inch;

  • top of a desk has 20,961/square inch;

  • computer keyboard has 3,295/square inch;

  • computer mouse has 1,676/square inch.


Source:  University of Arizona Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba

Germs, Why Kitchens Have The Most Harmful 

While bathrooms generally host more bacteria/germs than kitchens, most people know this and take proper precautions, such as cleaning with disinfectants.  Kitchens, however, provide an environment where bacteria can grow, often undetected.  Bacteria in heavy concentrations can be found in sinks and drains that are not constantly and properly cleaned. Many intestinal tract illnesses are picked up from cutting boards that are wiped—not washed—after being used to cut raw chicken.  The key to avoiding germs in the kitchen is to cook at the proper temperatures, disinfect preparation surfaces, and wash utensils and hands after working with raw meat or chicken.

Germophobe

A person who has a fear of germs.

Green Label

Green Label is the Carpet and Rug Institute's certification program for vacuum cleaners.  To qualify for the Green Label, vacuums must go through a stringent testing process that measures three key performance factors:

  • Soil Removal - The vacuum must remove a set quantity of soil from carpet in four passes.

  • Dust Containment - The vacuum must not release more than 100 micrograms of dust particles per cubic meter of air. This protocol evaluates the total amount of dust particles released by the brush rolls, through the filtration bag and via any air leaks from the system, and is more stringent than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

  • Carpet Appearance Retention - The vacuum should not affect the appearance of the carpet more than a one-step change based on one year of normal vacuum use.

High performance vacuum cleaners have a significant impact on improved indoor air quality (IAQ). At the same time, vacuums that effectively remove and contain soil while keeping the carpet looking good will help carpets last longer. Ultimately, better performing vacuums provide a greater return on investment and ensure a healthier indoor environment.

Green Seal

Green Seal is a widely recognized green product certification. According to the Green Seal organization, it is "an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause a less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion. Green Seal has no financial interest in the products that it certifies or recommends nor in any manufacturer or company."

Green Seal, Products Certified with

The Green Seal is awarded to products that have less impact on the environment and work well. To earn the Green Seal a product must meet the Green Seal environmental standard for the category as demonstrated by rigorous evaluation, testing and a plant visit.

Green Washing

Green washing means to purposefully mislead consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.  This is done to portray an inaccurate or untrue image that has advantages for the company or organization.  A leading green washing watchdog is TerraChoice, an environmental marketing organization.  They list Seven Sins of Green Washing that include lack of proof, using vague language, making irrelevant claims, and making inaccurate claims.  The TerraChoice Web site can be found at www.terrachoice.com.

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