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by Dale Connelly, 7/14/00

Dc: This is DCR, news meant for amusement. Scientists are trying to get to the bottom of a puzzle about allergies. Recent studies suggest that living in a very clean environment might actually make people sick.
To explore this contradiction, we welcome Dr. Beverly Crust, a behavioral toxipologist with the Thousand Island Clinic. Thanks for coming in.

Crust: You… you're … (sneeze)

Dc: You're allergic to something in this room, aren't you!

Crust: I'm allergic to something in every room, and in some rooms, everything. My allergies got me interested behavioral toxipology.

Dc: Which is … what, exactly.

Crust: The study of behaviors that are toxic to ourselves and our loved ones, which we then cover up with denial and rationalization and indifference.

Dc: That's a big field.

Crust: I did my doctoral thesis on my very own family.

Dc: And now you're tracking the "hygiene hypothesis". What is that?

Crust: It's the theory that an environment free of germs, dust, pet dander, mites, mice, insects, hay, pollen … is an environment where the immune system has nothing to fight. And your immune system was made to fight. It's like Mike Tyson, if it doesn't have something to fight, it will pick a fight with a chump … like … like dandruff.

Dc: You're allergic to dandruff?

Crust: I'm allergic to my OWN dandruff.

Dc: How awful.

Crust: That's why we're working on this around the clock. If we can prove the hygiene hypothesis, we may be able to put an end to a lot of suffering.

Dc: From allergies.

Crust: No… from compulsive cleanliness. Always having to wash the floors, every day. Vacuum again and again. (mom voice) "Pick up your room, Beverly, or maggots will grow in your bed."
If you've never been through it, you wouldn't know. But it's horrible.

Dc: And did you go through it? As a child?

Crust: (pause) Whether I did or didn't, it's immaterial to this research. Scientists can't afford to bring our personal resentments and … painful memories to our work. It wouldn't be … (sneeze) … It wouldn't be right.

Dc: Suppose the research proves that a little bit of dirt around the house is a good thing, it helps children build a strong immune system. Then what? Would you feel vindicated?

Crust: (emotional) Maybe.

Dc: How might an average person change their behavior, as a result?

Crust: (increasingly emotional) A average person might lighten up a bit. An average person might not insist that the bathroom be sanitized three times a day! Maybe an average person's child could have a cat for a pet. Or a dog. So she could grow up feeling LOVED!

Dc: If the research works out, would you want to send the results to anyone in particular? To say "I told you so."

Crust: (yes) No!

Dc: But this research is very personal to you.

Crust: (weepy) Not at all. (blow nose) I'm sorry. I can't go on.

Dc: Dr. Beverly Crust, a behavioral toxipologist with the Thousand Island Clinic, and a lead researcher into the hygiene hypothesis.

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