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Stuff of Progress: Disinfectants

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.

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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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In 1500 BC, the ancient Egyptians devised ways to make soap-like components using alkaline salts and oil. This was further enhanced by the Neo-Babylonians, by adding ashes, cypress extracts, and sesame oil.

The Romans

The Latin word for soap ‘Sapo’ is mentioned in an ancient encyclopedia (penned in circa 77 AD) by a Roman Naturalist Pliny the Elder. The author talked about how the product was used more by the Gaulish and Germanic men rather than Romans (which preferred to scrap their skins clean by using essential oils and white sand).

A Greek physician Galen writes about soap and its use in the Roman empire in 2nd century AD.

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Wash Your Hands

The best way to lower your risk of contracting the new virus is to wash your hands after you cough, sneeze, touch your face, and when you leave and return from the grocery store.

It's also i...

To Keep Yourself Virus-Free

  • Wash your hands.
  • Stay home if you can.
  • If you're coughing or sneezing, wear a protective mask.
  • First clean, then disinfect your home.
  • Target high-touch surfaces daily.

Disinfectants

The EPA has a full list of disinfectants that will kill the new virus.

Disinfectant that will work is disinfecting wipes, disinfectant spray, Isopropyl alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide.

If you cannot find store-bought disinfectants, you can make a disinfectant spray with 4 teaspoons household bleach mixed with 1-quart water into a spray bottle. To use, spray on the surface, wait for 10 minutes and wipe away with a wet cloth. Don't mix bleach with another cleaning chemical.

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Urban sanitation

Urban sanitation

Mohenjo-Daro is a city in today's Pakistan that pioneered new standards of urban sanitation. Mohenjo-Daro was the earliest and largest urban center of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, con...

Advances in sanitation

Humanity has been vulnerable to rapidly spread illnesses because disease propagates more easily in concentrated populations without adequate sanitation.

Advances in sanitation have allowed people to live near one another in cities with less risk to their health, in particular, safe disposal of effluent to spare the water supply from contamination.

The public bathhouse

The Indus Valley civilization arose in the floodplains of the Indus and Sarasvati rivers around 5000 years ago.

In the largest structure in the city Mohenjo-Dar was an immense, elevated public bathhouse, measuring almost 900 square feet. The status of the bathhouse as the city's largest structure suggests that the people highly valued cleanliness.

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