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Poo found on most indoor climbing holds

Fecal bacteria lives on most climbing holds according to this article.  Is this a concern or just a case of, we find it everywhere, BFD?  Interesting none the less.  So is this where I chest pound and brag, "thats why I climb only real rock?"

It is almost impossible to avoid touching surfaces that other people and critters have touched. Enter a store, such as your neighborhood grocery store and you will probably encounter a hand sterilizer station or hand wipes dispenser. You may have grabbed a grocery cart that has been touched by a few dozen people, some of whom put on their shoes with their hands that touched the bottom of their shoes that were in contact with the parking lot surface, which may have been peed on or gotten a deposit from several dogs, cats, squirrels, birds. At the bouldering area, there were probably deposits from some of those critters plus mice, rats, and still more critters.

During my sojourns in Peru, we quickly learned to, at the very least, apply Purell and/or wash hands with soap and hot water before every meal in restaurants or meals cooked at camp (DO NOT buy food from the street carts, even if you see them cooking the food they sell you!). Hiking through the hills, whether in the Sierra, Andes, Kilimanjaro, Alps, Cascades, ..... you are placing your boot soles in poo and pee deposits from "all creatures great and small".

You do develop some immunity to the bacteria, protozoa, and viruses in your home neighborhood and country. But not to all, and certainly not to foreign countries (the West Coast is foreign to East Coasters and vice versa).

The answer, Jeff, is you are exposed to organisms everywhere you go, everything you touch, and the air you breathe and fluids you drink. If you eat healthy and exercise some discretion, you will have some immunity and/or resistance and will recover pretty quickly from most things.

Statistic I saw recently - your body harbors over an order of magnitude more bacteria than it has cells that belong to you. Some of these are beneficial (they live in your gut and help digest your food). Some are pretty much dormant, but if triggered, can be quickly fatal.

Bill, I was kinda leaning that way too, I think the revelation is that we just know more about what we have been touching all along.  I shy away from the sterilize everything craze because I am learning the important role bacterial play in our health.  I think the last article I read said that bacterial do the majority of our digestion for us and that too much sterilization and antibiotic use really does us harm in the long run.  

Just because its there doesn't mean its that bad. 


Here is a example of the "overkill" reaction and the problem it can cause. On our American Climber Science Program expeditions to foreign countries (especially 3rd world countries), it is common for some of the participants to want to try the local cuisine. Since sanitation and care in food preparation is not the same in other countries along with the local bacteria and protozoa being somewhat different from what we have in the US and Canada, some of the participants get a bad case of diarrhea and vomiting (Europeans coming to North America sometimes experience the same thing - Euro bugs and North American bugs are different). So the victims grab the Cipro or flagel, which does a massive job of killing all the critters in their guts. This has the unfortunate side effect of killing everything, including the bacteria in their guts that aid in digestion, which lengthens recovery time and may give some of the bad bugs a chance to take hold. A way around this is to start taking probiotics in pill or liquid form (kifa, for example - yogurt generally does not have enough of the probiotics in it, though it helps). In South America, many of the grocery stores have a wide variety of probiotics in liquid form (in 1 to 2 liter bottles), which speeds readjustment. But most Americans and Canadians are not familiar enough with these to know to take them unless told by other members of the expedition. So they suffer for a week or 2, rather than recovering in a couple days.

Also, North Americans and Western Europeans tend to forget that the ice used in drinks may come from tap water that has not been sterilized, hence pick up the local, non-compatible critters that way. My in-laws did a trip around the world for their 50th  anniversary. Their 5-star hotel in India provided a celebratory bottle of some alcoholic beverage (whiskey, IIRC) with a bucket of ice cubes. They spent a couple of miserable days recovering from the tap water ice.

On my travels in South America, I always order water with gas, no ice. Yes, we are exposed to bacteria everywhere. Several years ago(and I wrote something about it on this site) I wondered why in the 1960s 70s and 80s, I never really worried about filtering my water when hiking and climbing here in the PNW. Then, after reading about giardia, I started filtering everything. I wasn't sick before, so why filter and was giardia(and other nasty bugs) really so prevalent? Others had wondered the same thing. A study the 1990s found that there were twice as many giardia cysts in San Fran's drinking water than in the hundreds of Sierra lakes tested. In the case of giardia, many, if not most, of the cases could directly be traced back to poor hygiene. So, in the case of giardia, it isn't always the errant beaver upstream, but your buddy who stuck his hand in the cracker box.

Funny this came up. Just this morning I was talking to the head of housekeeping at Lake Williamson about cleaning toilets. She told me that any disinfectant must sit on a surface for 10 minutes to take effect.

So when that restaurant employee does a quick squirt on a table and wipes it dry, they've done nothing to sanitize the table. Same goes for a quick public toilet cleaning, wiping down fast food trays, and etc.

G00SE said:

..She told me that any disinfectant must sit on a surface for 10 minutes to take effect...

It depends on the compound used for disinfecting surfaces, and what you are trying to kill.  Some solutions are near instantaneous.  For example undiluted bleach straight out of the bottle is practically instant in its performance.  Compounds with high concentration of iodine are also potent and rapid.  Bars use a cold dip that keeps glass wares safe of its customers which requires little more than a brief dip to be effective.  Hospitals use a solution intended for a variety of surfaces that accomplishes the task by the time the surface is dry.


October 29, 2020
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