simple science

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Simple Science

231. Pasteurizing
Chemicals as Disinfectants and Preservatives:
The prevention of disease epidemics is one of the most striking achievements of modern science. Food, clothing, furniture, and other objects contaminated in any way by disease germs may be disinfected by chemicals or by heat, and widespread infection from persons suffering with a contagious disease may be prevented.

When disease germs are within the body, the problem is far from simple, because chemicals which would effectively destroy the germs would be fatal to life itself. But when germs are outside the body, as in water or milk, or on clothing, dishes, or furniture, they can be easily killed. One of the best methods of destroying germs is to subject them to intense heat. Contaminated water is made safe by boiling for a few minutes, because the strong heat destroys the disease-producing germs. Scalded or Pasteurized milk saves the lives of scores of babies, because the germs of summer complaint which lurk in poor milk are killed and rendered harmless in the process of scalding. Dishes used by consumptives, and persons suffering from contagious diseases, can be made harmless by thorough washing in thick suds of almost boiling water.

The bedding and clothing of persons suffering with diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other germ diseases should always be boiled and hung to dry in the bright sunlight. Heat and sunshine are two of the best disinfectants.

FIG. - Pasteurizing apparatus, an arrangement by which milk is conveniently heated to destroy disease germs.
232. Chemicals
Chemicals as Disinfectants and Preservatives:
Objects, such as furniture, which cannot be boiled, are disinfected by the use of any one of several chemicals, such as sulphur, carbolic acid, chloride of lime, corrosive sublimate, etc.

One of the simplest methods of disinfecting consists in burning sulphur in a room whose doors, windows, and keyholes have been closed, so that the burning fumes cannot escape, but remain in the room long enough to destroy disease germs. This is probably the most common means of fumigation.

For general purposes, carbolic acid is one of the very best disinfectants, but must be used with caution, as it is a deadly poison except when very dilute.

Chloride of lime when exposed to the air and moisture slowly gives off chlorine, and can be used as a disinfectant because the gas thus set free attacks germs and destroys them. For this reason chloride of lime is an excellent disinfectant of drainpipes. Certain bowel troubles, such as diarrhœa, are due to microbes, and if the waste matter of a person suffering from this or similar diseases is allowed passage through the drainage system, much damage may be done. But a small amount of chloride of lime in the closet bowl will insure disinfection.
233. Personal Disinfection
Chemicals as Disinfectants and Preservatives:
The hands may gather germs from any substances or objects with which they come in contact; hence the hands should be washed with soap and water, and especially before eating. Physicians who perform operations wash not only their hands, but their instruments, sterilizing the latter by placing them in boiling water for several minutes.

Cuts and wounds allow easy access to the body; a small cut has been known to cause death because of the bacteria which found their way into the open wound and produced disease. In order to destroy any germs which may have entered into the cut from the instrument, it is well to wash out the wound with some mild disinfectant, such as very dilute carbolic acid or hydrogen peroxide, and then to bind the wound with a clean cloth, to prevent later entrance of germs.
234. Chemicals as Food Preservatives
Chemicals as Disinfectants and Preservatives:
The spoiling of meats and soups, and the souring of milk and preserves, are due to germs which, like those producing disease, can be destroyed by heat and by chemicals.

Milk heated to the boiling point does not sour readily, and successful canning consists in cooking fruits and vegetables until all the germs are killed, and then sealing the cans so that germs from outside cannot find entrance and undo the work of the canner.

Some dealers and manufacturers have learned that certain chemicals will act as food preservatives, and hence they have replaced the safe method of careful canning by the quicker and simpler plan of adding chemicals to food. Catchup, sauces, and jellies are now frequently preserved in this way. But the chemicals which destroy bacteria frequently injure the consumer as well. And so much harm has been done by food preservatives that the pure food laws require that cans and bottles contain a labeled statement of the kind and quantity of chemicals used.

Even milk is not exempt, but is doctored to prevent souring, the preservative most generally used by milk dealers being formaldehyde. The vast quantity of milk consumed by young and old, sick and well, makes the use of formaldehyde a serious menace to health, because no constitution can endure the injury done by the constant use of preservatives.

The most popular and widely used preservatives of meats are borax and boric acid. These chemicals not only arrest decay, but partially restore to old and bad meat the appearance of freshness; in this way unscrupulous dealers are able to sell to the public in one form or other meats which may have undergone partial decomposition; sausage frequently contains partially decomposed meat, restored as it were by chemicals.

In jams and catchups there is abundant opportunity for preservatives; badly or partially decayed fruits are sometimes disinfected and used as the basis of foods sold by so-called good dealers. Benzoate of soda, and salicylic acid are the chemicals most widely employed for this purpose, with coal-tar dyes to simulate the natural color of the fruit.

Many of the cheap candies sold by street venders are not fit for consumption, since they are not only made of bad material, but are frequently in addition given a light dipping in varnish as a protection against the decaying influences of the atmosphere.

The only wise preservatives are those long known and employed by our ancestors; salt, vinegar, and spices are all food preservatives, but they are at the same time substances which in small amounts are not injurious to the body. Smoked herring and salted mackerel are chemically preserved foods, but they are none the less safe and digestible.
235. The Preservation of Wood and Metal
Chemicals as Disinfectants and Preservatives:
The decaying of wood and the rusting of metal are due to the action of air and moisture. When wood and metal are surrounded with a covering which neither air nor moisture can penetrate, decay and rust are prevented. Paint affords such a protective covering. The main constituent of paint is a compound of white lead or other metallic substance; this is mixed with linseed oil or its equivalent in order that it may be spread over wood and metal in a thin, even coating. After the mixture has been applied, it hardens and forms a tough skin fairly impervious to weathering. For the sake of ornamentation, various colored pigments are added to the paint and give variety of effect.

Railroad ties and street paving blocks are ordinarily protected by oil rather than paint. Wood is soaked in creosote oil until it becomes thoroughly saturated with the oily substance. The pores of the wood are thus closed to the entrance of air and moisture, and decay is avoided. Wood treated in this way is very durable. Creosote is poisonous to insects and many small animals, and thus acts as a preservation not only against the elements but against animal life as well.

236. Stimulants and Narcotics
Drugs and Patent Medicines:
Man has learned not only the action of substances upon each other, such as bleaching solution upon coloring matter, washing soda upon grease, acids upon bases, but also the effect which certain chemicals have upon the human body.

Drugs and their varying effects upon the human system have been known to mankind from remote ages; in the early days, familiar leaves, roots, and twigs were steeped in water to form medicines which served for the treatment of all ailments. In more recent times, however, these simple herb teas have been supplanted by complex drugs, and now medicines are compounded not only from innumerable plant products, but from animal and mineral matter as well. Quinine, rhubarb, and arnica are examples of purely vegetable products; iron, mercury, and arsenic are equally well known as distinctly mineral products, while cod-liver oil is the most familiar illustration of an animal remedy. Ordinarily a combination of products best serves the ends of the physician.

Substances which, like cod-liver oil, serve as food to a worn-out body, or, like iron, tend to enrich the blood, or, like quinine, aid in bringing an abnormal system to a healthy condition, are valuable servants and cannot be entirely dispensed with so long as man is subject to disease.

But substances which, like opium, laudanum, and alcohol, are not required by the body as food, or as a systematic, intelligent aid to recovery, but are taken solely for the stimulus aroused or for the insensibility induced, are harmful to man, and cannot be indulged in by him without ultimate mental, moral, and physical loss. Substances of the latter class are known as narcotics and stimulants.
237. The Cost of Health
Drugs and Patent Medicines:
In the physical as in the financial world, nothing is to be had without a price. Vigor, endurance, and mental alertness are bought by hygienic living; that is, by proper food, fresh air, exercise, cleanliness, and reasonable hours. Some people wish vigor, endurance, etc., but are unwilling to live the life which will develop these qualities. Plenty of sleep, exercise, and simple food all tend to lay the foundations of health. Many, however, are not willing to take the care necessary for healthful living, because it would force them to sacrifice some of the hours of pleasure. Sooner or later, these pleasure-seekers begin to feel tired and worn, and some of them turn to drugs and narcotics for artificial strength. At first the drugs seem to restore the lost energy, and without harm; however, the cost soon proves to be one of the highest Nature ever demands.
238. The Uncounted Cost
Drugs and Patent Medicines:
The first and most obvious effect of opium, for example, is to deaden pain and to arouse pleasure; but while the drug is producing these soothing sensations, it interferes with bodily functions. Secretion, digestion, absorption of food, and the removal of waste matters are hindered. Continued use of the drug leads to headache, exhaustion, nervous depression, and heart weakness. There is thus a heavy toll reckoned against the user, and the creditor is relentless in demanding payment.

Moreover, the respite allowed by a narcotic is exceedingly brief, and a depression which is long and deep inevitably follows. In order to overcome this depression, recourse is usually had to a further dose, and as time goes on, the intervals of depression become more frequent and lasting, and the necessity to overcome them increases. Thus without intention one finds one's self bound to the drug, its fast victim. The sanatoria of our country are crowded with people who are trying to free themselves of a drug habit into which they have drifted unintentionally if not altogether unknowingly. What is true of opium is equally applicable to other narcotics.
239. The Right Use of Narcotics
Drugs and Patent Medicines:
In the hands of the physician, narcotics are a great blessing. In some cases, by relieving pain, they give the system the rest necessary for overcoming the cause of the pain. Only those who know of the suffering endured in former times can fully appreciate the decrease in pain brought about by the proper use of narcotics.
240. Patent Medicines Cough Sirups
Drugs and Patent Medicines:
A reputable physician is solicitous regarding the permanent welfare of his patient and administers carefully chosen and harmless drugs. Mere medicine venders, however, ignore the good of mankind, and flood the market with cheap patent preparations which delude and injure those who purchase, but bring millions of dollars to those who manufacture.

Practically all of these patent, or proprietary, preparations contain a large proportion of narcotics or stimulants, and hence the benefit which they seem to afford the user is by no means genuine; examination shows that the relief brought by them is due either to a temporary deadening of sensibilities by narcotics or to a fleeting stimulation by alcohol and kindred substances.

Among the most common ailments of both young and old are coughs and colds; hence many patent cough mixtures have been manufactured and placed on the market for the consumption of a credulous public. Such "quick cures" almost invariably contain one or more narcotic drugs, and not only do not relieve the cold permanently, but occasion subsequent disorders. Even lozenges and pastilles are not free from fraud, but have a goodly proportion of narcotics, containing in some cases chloroform, morphine, and ether.

The widespread use of patent cough medicines is due largely to the fact that many persons avoid consulting a physician about so trivial an ailment as an ordinary cold, or are reluctant to pay a medical fee for what seems a slight indisposition and hence attempt to doctor themselves.

Catarrh is a very prevalent disease in America, and consequently numerous catarrh remedies have been devised, most of which contain in a disguised form the pernicious drug, cocaine. Laws have been enacted which require on the labels a declaration of the contents of the preparation, both as to the kind of drug used and the amount, and the choice of accepting or refusing such mixtures is left to the individual. But the great mass of people are ignorant of the harmful nature of drugs in general, and hence do not even read the self-accusing label, or if they do glance at it, fail to comprehend the dangerous nature of the drugs specified there. In order to safeguard the uninformed purchaser and to restrict the manufacture of harmful patent remedies, some states limit the sale of all preparations containing narcotics and thus give free rein to neither consumer nor producer.


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