Evolution of Sanitizers By John A Lopes Ph.D.

We all use sanitizers on surfaces, produce, hands and skin for protection against Infections and prevention from spoilage by the action of microorganisms. There is an increasing array of sanitizing products in the market for protection against food borne infections, cleaning contaminated surfaces as well as keeping skin and hands safe from contaminating microorganisms.

 The use of sanitizers started many millennia ago when cave dweller man first used fire to prevent spoilage of food by roasting or boiling with water mainly for organoleptic taste but inadvertently by killing microbes. This was the physical use of sanitizers by oxidation or burning.

 With progress in chemistry, physical sanitizers were replaced by chemical sanitizers. Thus chlorine, halogen-based products, peroxides, aldehydes were used as oxidizing chemicals sanitizers. These offered convenience of storage, handling, and use. The trend followed with the introduction of many types of chemical and physical sanitizers such as iodine, uv-radiation, electron beam, gamma rays and more.

 The smell of iodine in hospitals and chlorine odor in public toilets spaces appear to ensure safety from infectious agents. The concept was to use more powerful products, no matter how harmful, that can stop life processes. Later chloroxylenol, quaternary ammonium-based compounds, para chloro meta xylenol, nonylphenol, ethanol, heavy metals such as mercury, silver, ethyl alcohol and other inflammable ingredients were used in sanitizing products. Although these products are powerful sanitizing and disinfecting agents, almost every one of these products have safety drawbacks.

 Some of the products display overt immediate toxicity, some can cause allergic reactions like contact dermatitis, others accumulate and can manifest pathologies after threshold buildup in the body. Thus, seemingly safe harmless sanitizers may have underline pathologies evident after regular long-term use.

 Chlorinated products are highly reactive and can modify organic food and produce carcinogens, peroxides produce free carcinogenic radicals, traces of iodine can interfere with thyroid function, heavy metals can accumulate in the body and result in kidney damage, quaternary ammonium compounds can inhibit cholinesterase enzymes, triclosan has been shown to transfer residues to infants in mothers’ milk, biphenyl containing detergent sanitizers can disrupt  endocrine hormonal balance and xylenol based compounds exhibit outright toxicity.

Recent developments include a totally new concept for designing sanitizing agents. The products should be equally or more effective in killing a broad spectrum of microorganisms, active against antibiotic resistant bacteria, and do not leave toxic residues after treatment and can be modulated to lose antimicrobial properties after use. If the food grade FDA listed biobased and or biodegradable ingredients are used in sanitizing products, the products would be environmentally safe, free of harmful effects, and meet the climate control requirements. Microcide uses such criterion of developing its antimicrobial sanitizing products, and the company was recommended for the presidential green chemistry ward by the EPA.

 John A Lopes, Ph.D. founded Microcide over 30 years ago for research and development of alternative safe and non-toxic eco-friendly biodegradable microbicidal agents. Dr. Lopes has received more than 10 US and Canadian patents for its technology and has received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Lopes is author of multiple peer reviewed scientific publications and book editions including chapters in Disinfection, Sterilization and Preservation. Visit us at www.microcide.com