Science For Life
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Science For Life

Mind The Disinfectants

Awareness is Key, Sanitation is Queen: Practical Contagion Suppression Options & Strategies

In my previous post, I discussed some of the basic but practical approaches to staying clear of microbial and viral infection (Here). Beyond common sense, there are more active/aggressive means of taking on this invisible force of aggression. Here I am showing four types of methods to actively suppress micro-organismic growth and dissemination that you may not have known before.

1. Sanitize via Surface Modification. There is a reason why doorknobs are made of copper or silver, they are part of a well-known defense mechanism against microbial growth and transfer.

Did you know that heavy metals are natural microbicides? Their disinfectant properties have been known for thousands of years, especially when comes to cleaning water or other contact-based sanitation applications. Despite being a passive means of sanitization, their capability should not be overlooked.

There are in fact specific guidelines listed under the Center for Disease Control or the CDC on how and to what extent the effect of heavy metals such as silver, copper, or steel iron have on environmental control, disinfection of water, reusable medical devices, wound dressing, and surgical tools and equipment.

Needless to say, they are a natural deterrent to disease-causing contagions, not all, but enough to knock out the major players in the game such as MRSA, Norovirus, Gram-negative and positive bacteria, HIV & HBV and etc. So next time, given the choice, your preference should be to hold the metal handle of the door than the wooden part.

2. Sanitize via Heat. This is another century-old, try-and-true approach to sterilizing food, water, medieval surgical tools, and even infected human flesh (ever seen a movie where the heated knife was placed on a wound to sterilize it? That is it!).

Disinfection can be very effective in eliminating (not just suppressing) micro-organisms and viral colonies, through disintegration (tear into pieces), heat can disable any living organisms.

The mechanism of approach depends on the phase of substance, for a liquid-based substance like water, bringing it to a boil at 100 degrees Celsius does the trick. For ingestible solids, cooking via steam, pan-fry, stir-fry, or basically any sort of high heat treatment for sufficient time will disable microbes.

For any other solids/objects that require sterilization, introducing high heat (greater than 100 C) via contact is the way (i.e. in wounds). Interestingly, have you also realized, that your body uses heat in the form of fever to speed up immune responses during times of foreign viral/bacterial infection? But certainly not to the degree of eliminating you of course.

3. Sanitize via Light. The Sun is a wonderful source of unlimited resources, it creates light, gives heat, and also radiates the earth. While I am not talking about solar power here, its role as a natural disinfectant cannot be underestimated.

Light or otherwise termed electromagnetic radiation consists of photons of energy propagating through free space at different oscillation speeds, the oscillation distance is known as the wavelength. Shorter the distance, the higher the oscillation frequency, and the greater the energy.

While we can only perceive the visible light between 400–700 nm, ultraviolet is of particular interest to us here in terms of its inherent disinfectant ability. Because it is partially considered as ionizing radiation, which means it can cause chemical reactions greater than simple heating effects on biological surfaces. It can damage DNAs, disable microbes at a biochemical level, and sterilizes surfaces efficiently given sufficient power and contact proximity.

Fortunately, the earth’s ozone layer blocks out most of the harmful radiations (UV-C and much of the UV-B) to biological organisms, what comes through is mostly UV-A rays and some UV-B that performs the sterilization. Think of those who exposed themselves to too much sun and sickened with skin cancer is an outstanding example of DNA damage that could incur on the organic life.

However, when handled with care, ultraviolet light can be very effective. There are many commercial, handheld UV-C disinfectant sticks you can purchase, simply moving over a surface of interest for a few seconds, more than 90% of microorganisms can be wiped out right away. Just make sure you don’t point it toward yourself.

4. Sanitize via Chemicals. I put this approach last not because I don’t believe in its effectiveness. In fact, it is the most robust and complete solution to microbial and viral infestation elimination.

However, it is also the most toxic to our bodies. Being the most convenient, low-cost, and popular household chemicals such as bleach, chlorine-based compounds, alcohols, aldehydes, oxidizing agents, etc., they all work in a similar fashion: to chemically disrupt and tear apart membranes or structures of vital constituents of microbes or viruses.

These chemicals come in large varieties, which primarily depend on the target of interests to dictate effectiveness. When in contact with the body, they often impose upon you the undesired side effects such as dryness, irritation, redness, inflammation and etc.

If they are really good at destroying biological organisms, you are included in their non-differentiating list of targets. In fact, chemical cocktails are used in treating rapidly dividing tumor cells, not exactly a bulls-eye approach, as you can see, it destroys both cancerous and healthy cells in the body. So take heed, the next time you use those chemical disinfectants, wear gloves, and a chemical mask, and allow plenty of air infiltration.

Get them things sanitized out there, my friends.

Labman Perspective



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Labman Perspective

A scientist, a family man, and an avid hoarder of creative ideas and positive affirmations. I seek to inspire and to be inspired. 💯 Supporting You!