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Stuff of Progress: Disinfectants

Chemical disinfection is vital

Chemical disinfection is vital

Chemical disinfection has helped to improve life expectancy and considerably changed our collective standard of living.

It is inexpensive and always available, and is used to preserve and prepare our food, clean our water, improve our hygiene, and help eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses.

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Stuff of Progress: Disinfectants

Stuff of Progress: Disinfectants

https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=2407

humanprogress.org

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Key Ideas

Chemical disinfection is vital

Chemical disinfection has helped to improve life expectancy and considerably changed our collective standard of living.

It is inexpensive and always available, and is used to preserve and prepare our food, clean our water, improve our hygiene, and help eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses.

Early chemical disinfection

Basic chemical disinfection was employed since at least 3,000 BC, using alcohol, elemental copper and Sulfur, salt, sodium carbonate, and mild organic acids.

Sulfur fumigation was used widely throughout Europe through the Middle Ages, especially during outbreaks of plague. But disinfectants such as compounds of Sulfur, mercury, and copper were only moderately effective and highly toxic, resulting in health problems.

Effective deployment

The first notable effective deployment of disinfectants came in 1675 when a Dutch scientist noticed through the glass of his microscope that strong vinegar killed microorganisms.

In 1887, a British surgeon researched the effects of carbolic acid as a disinfectant in the operating theater. The results drastically reduced infection rates among patients.

Modern disinfectants

Modern disinfectants are made from many compounds, including alcohols, aldehydes, oxidizing agents, phenolics, inorganic compounds such as chlorine, some metals, various acids, etc.

Disinfecting agents have become essential in reducing illness and disease. The Industrial Revolution played a vital role in saving lives, as it produced things like chemical detergents that could run automatic washing machines.

The disinfection of water

In 1908, the United States started a continuous application of water chlorination at the Boonton Reservoir in New Jersey. The technology spread first across the United States, and later across developed nations.

Clean water, filtered, and disinfected has saved countless lives.

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