We have become so accustomed to our modern lifestyle that we often neglect to appreciate how different conditions were less than 150 years ago and how dramatically human health and the environment have improved. We forget in particular the unprecedented role microbial control technologies have played.

ANTISEPTIC SURGERY

Disinfectants in surgery were introduced by J. Lister in the 1860s. Since then, the use of disinfectants in surgeries and for sterilization in general has saved the lives of millions of patients.

PREVENTING BLINDNESS IN NEWBORN BABIES

In the 1880s, German obstetrician Carl Sigmund Franz Crede pioneered the use of silver nitrate eye drops to prevent conjunctivitis (pink eye) and blindness in newborn babies — a technique that persisted until antibiotics came to market.

THE DISCOVERY OF PENICILLIN

Penicillin can be considered the first and most famous biocide. Its discovery marked an important era in medicine: the age of antibiotics. Before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 by sorting through his petri dishes, pneumonia, gonorrhea or rheumatic fever were virtually incurable.

SAFE DRINKING WATER

Disinfection of drinking water has been practiced for several hundred years, but the mechanism was not really understood until the beginning of the 20th century. Starting in the 19th century, chlorine was used as a disinfectant. Essentially chlorine is still used as an active ingredient, but the substances, which provide the chlorine, changed over the years. Nowadays in addition to chlorine releasing agents a variety of other chemicals are used as disinfectants for drinking water treatment, e.g. oxygen releasing agents (ozone or hydrogen peroxide).

DISINFECTING MEDICAL INSTRUMENTS

Glutaraldehyde was invented in the 1960’s to disinfect medical instruments that could not be sterilized with heat. Needless to say disinfection of medical instruments is indispensable to modern medicine.

SUSTAINABILITY IN THE PAPER INDUSTRY

Microbial control has more recently helped society manage resources more sustainably; one example is the paper industry. Over the years the use of microbial control technologies has contributed to improving mills’ efficiency and reducing water usage and water pollution.