Are We Filtering Ourselves to Death?

Recently I was having a discussion with my brother in law, who is quite a brain may I say, and he pointed out to me that in preparing his recent documentary film on traffic congestion in cities, he had realized that the more we have filtered the exhaust from cars, the more insidious and widespread allergies and other breathing disorders have become.  Now I have to say that my immediate thought was "Are you crazy!", but then I got thinking and you know what, he's right.  Here's why... Our immune system provides a number of levels for preventing toxins and other contaminants from infiltrating our delicate body tissues and cells.  Let's look at breathing as our example.  In our nasal passages, we have tiny cilia (hairs) that trap large contaminants and at the same time trigger primary immune reactions such as mucous formation and the urge to sneeze, both of which are great for cleansing the nose and covering all immediate surfaces with snot.

This process is also important for alerting the immune system to potential allergens and toxins allowing for secondary levels of immunity to be put on alert and eventually activated.  In other words, each level of immunity is geared to handle specific challenges, all of which have been programmed for millenia based on the human experience.

Now, let's look at filtration.  The idea of filtration is to remove the largest contaminants by size.  In this way, our primary defenses have nothing to react to.  So breathing immune reactions such as sneezing and mucous formation don't happen because there is nothing detectable among the cilia of the nose.  But what is happening is that smaller particulates are getting past that first line of defense and triggering secondary, more systemic immune reactions.  The problem is that because there was no first line of defense activated, the second line of defense is becoming overwhelmed by challenges every day, instead of the first line of defense handling many small particulates along with the larger ones simply by the two reactions of mucous and sneezing.

So now, what is happening is that we are getting deeper immune reactions of inflammation of bronchial passages, poor oxygen exchange to prevent body infection, and fluid accumulation in the lungs.  This then causes the body to chronically overreact to every challenge because the secondary system is so overwhelmed.  We are developing allergies to more and more things that before we would not have been exposed to at such a deep level because they would have been prevented by the activation of the primary immune reactions.  The result ... more allergies and bronchial conditions than ever before.  More diseases that are chronic and unresolved.

This is a process that we noticed long ago with the over-use of antibiotics not just by prescription, but in antibacterial everything!  By constantly removing bacteria and not permitting our immune system to be exposed, we were reducing the effectiveness of the immune system overall, and allowing bacteria that were resistant to flourish.  Over-filtration may be doing the exact same thing.  By sterilizing our environment, we are making ourselves more sensitive to the smallest things ... things that our immune system had always handled at a different level with less effort.

We really need to consider if we are filtering ourselves to death...