Oxford dictionary defines soap as, “a substance used with water for washing and cleaning, made of a compound of natural oils or fats with sodium hydroxide. ” And that is just it. Soap, although simple, is also so very complex, and used to improve so much. Soap is commercially and socially used for cleaning and sanitation and has had a very significant impact on the health of the overall world. Although the very first usage and production of soap was never officially documented, it is said to be possible that soap could have been discovered/used in as far back as early prehistoric times.
Though the creation of soap is a very old process, typically in early civilizations, it was not widely used by the peoples of those specific times. Even in modern times the lack of soap has caused epidemics of small, and sometimes even large, proportions. Juergen Eichholtz, states, “In Europe alone, the annually recurring influenza epidemics or severe virus epidemics could be tackled through improved hygiene. The EHEC epidemic in Germany in 2011, or the recently imported Noro virus from China which paralyzed many students in German primary schools, clearly demonstrate the need for regular hand washing with soap. Washing your hands with soap is so quick and simple, yet so often neglected.
Many epidemics in the early history before soap, are known to have been avoidable if soap was more commonly used and more commonly available. The Global Handwashing Organization goes on to explain on their website, “handwashing can prevent the transmission of a variety of pathogens, it may be more effective than any single vaccine. Promoted on a wide enough scale, handwashing with soap can be thought of as a “do-it-yourself” vaccine.
Ingraining the habit of handwashing could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention. ”They further prove that soap has a significant impact on health by comparing soap to a vaccine. Here, the GHO (Global Handwashing Organization) is trying to discuss their idea of a simple vaccination without the trouble of a traditional vaccination. Many things in the past were used in place of soap. Including items such as strigils that were used in ancient Rome , clay cylinders containing a soap like substance that were used in Babylon, and Ebers papyrus that was used for reference in ancient Egypt.
Before soap was officially declared to have been an invented substance and noted in medical notebooks, exclusive Muslim soap makers and chemists used vegetable oils, aromatic oils, and lye as a sort of soap for cleaning and cleansing. These oils could also be replaced by the fats of animals, typically killed for sacrifices, mixed with wood ashes and lye to create another sort of soap. This process was widely used for making soap, and was how many civilizations and people created soap before it was mass sold for profit and general benefit. One of the most famous sanitation projects can be found in Ancient Rome in the widely known Roman Bathes.
The Roman civilization developed a series of aqueducts that stretched over approximately 260 miles of land. These aqueducts lead to public fountains, wealthy elite’ homes, and to the famous Roman bathes. The Romans were one of the first, if not the first civilization to develop public bathes where citizens could come and bathe and even socialize whenever they pleased. Within these bathes, there were three chambers for bathing. One chamber had water with extremely high temperatures and a lot of steam, creating an environment almost like a sauna to open your pores and relax your muscles.
Another chamber had a comfortable, warm water temperature where slaves would rub olive oil on your body and scrape the excess dirt off your body with strigils. This, although it sounds rather painful, was very relaxing and was considered extremely cleanly. And the third, and final chamber had large pools of cool water where you could sit and socialize with other Roman citizens while the pores of your body close, as a result, preventing the penetration of dirt and germs. Although soap would have done an adequate job as well, the Romans created a brilliant system to cleanse the body without the widespread use of soap.
Many civilizations are known to have had periods of time when they believed that they had created the “first” soap. Ancient Babylonians were officially declared the first inventors of soap, with evidence dating back to 2800 B. C. however; Michel Eugene Chevreul is the scientific father and inventor of soap. Chevreul was a French Chemist born in 1786 to a family of doctors. He spent most of his life studying the structure and properties of lipids, and lead to his discovery of the concept of fatty acids. These discoveries of fatty acids sparked his interest in the concept of soap and eventually to his invention of soap.
Some people may ask, “Why use soap? Why even make soap? ” The answer to these questions are as follows: Soap is good for overall health of everyone and the production of soap allows the general health of the public easier to access. Rob Dunn, a contributor to Scientific American Blog, states, “Increasingly, the world seems to be rife with contamination. Fortunately, all of the main companies producing hygiene products have offered a solution–sanitary, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antibiotic, wipes, and soaps to kill anything that dares to creep into our wholesome lives.
These salves will cure us of the demons that dare to grow near us. ” When Dunn says this, he is completely correct. Without the proper and frequent use of sanitation products, such as soap, the general public would be more exposed to the world full of deadly germs. Sickness could be avoided through the simple wash of your hands. CNN wrote an article on their website called “Lack of soap means, illness, death for millions of children,” where they explain, “Across the globe, 2. 4 billion people do not have access to clean sanitation, according to the World Health Organization.
An estimated 1. 5 million children die every year because their immune systems are not mature enough to battle diarrheal and respiratory diseases spread in contaminated environments. ” Dr. Eric Mintz, leader of the Global Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Epidemiology team at the CDC further adds to the statement made by CNN by saying, “It seems so simple, soap and water. But imagine never being taught how to do that. ” Dr. Mintz has a point that can relate further back into history when there wasn’t any product like soap to help keep things sanitized.
Outbreaks of disease were common and were frequently spread due to tightly populated cities and towns. Those who didn’t use the simple soap and water were often very exposed to sickness and diseases. Therefore, outbreaks were almost uncontrollable in places that didn’t use soap. In fact, many organizations have been developed for less privileged, third world countries to receive soap and items similar. Organizations like the Global Soap Project, contributes soap to these soap-less societies. The Global Soap Project recycles soap from North American hotels and motels that would otherwise end up in piles in landfills.
This organization re-manufactures new bars of soap that are donated to underprivileged countries. Along with this giving of soap, they teach the local citizens information about proper hygiene that improves and almost always changes their lives. Soap obviously has a significant impact on people’s health and well-being. But does it have any other impacts? The obvious answer to this question is yes. Soap also has a very big impact on the economy with its mass production and manufacture. “Soap and synthetic detergents are used by practically very industry as an essential raw material or operating supply. ” Soap, especially in the textile industry is commonly used. Companies such as those that produce items of fabric and similar material are required to wash their materials before they are able to sell them for a profit. Also, soap is popular in the food industry. Restaurants are required by the health department to wash all their dishes, silverware, and glasses. As well as the tables, tablecloths, bathrooms, and according to most health laws, the employees must frequently wash their hands.
The list of examples of soap being used in specific industries goes on and on. This further proves that soap has a massive economic impact due to the fact that it is used in almost every industry in one way or another, in some form or fashion. Whether it be the workers who need to use the soap, or the product being sold that needs to be cleaned. An interesting idea is posed by an iconic children’s cartoon, “Spongebob Squarepants”. A specific quote from an episode entitled, “Squirrel Jokes,” refers specifically to soap.
The main character, Spongebob, offers a joke and by asking, “Soap, Soap. What is Soap? ” Though a harmless cartoon, the writer, Stephen Hillenburg, poses an interesting question that most don’t think of when watching the episode. What would the world be without soap? Just how much smaller would the world’s population be if soap was never invented? Would soap end up being eventually invented in the future? What is it like for people who are not aware of the simple concept of soap? There are no true, completely correct answers to any of these questions.
Although the world without soap is a terrifying thought, it is believed that we should be thankful for the invention of soap and that we should continue to purify the world through the use of this wonderfully brilliant product. Appendix Picture #1 Appendix Picture #2 Appendix Picture #3 Primary Sources Biow, Douglas. “Chapter 2: Soap and Washerwomen. ” The Culture of Cleanliness Italy. Ithica, NY: Cornell UP, 2006. N. pag. Print This book gives a brief explanation of soap and how it is made. The main information that comes out of this book is the primary sources on peoples opinions of soap.