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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 28, 2008


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2008;299(20):2453. doi:10.1001/jama.299.20.2453-b

The importance of disinfection as a measure of public health and safety is now so well established that anything that tends to deceive with a false sense of security concerning its effective performance becomes a public menace. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find attention drawn, in an article by Dr. S. Rideal,1 to the fact that vast quantities of so-called disinfectants are sold that are worthless for the purpose intended, possessing merely deodorizing properties. Dr. Rideal asserts that one dealer told him that he had sold such worthless fluids in an increasing ratio from 28,000 gallons in 1905 to 66,000 gallons in 1907. There is, therefore, great need of a standard of germicidal efficacy and of an official test. It must not be forgotten that the presence of organic matter along with the germs materially interferes with the effect of germicides, especially those that act by oxidation; and that in Nature such an admixture of organic matter is practically always found. It is easy, when testing a so-called germicide in the laboratory, by bringing it into direct contact with germs to cause it to show a much more potent effect than when used under ordinary conditions, hence the most unscrupulous claims can be made by manufacturers by a suppressio veri without departing from strict truth in what is actually asserted. When a worthless germicide is sold it is not merely an individual wrong to the purchaser. It may become a matter of serious moment to the community by causing the unwitting exposure of others to the danger of infection under the justifiable supposition that all such danger has been removed.