February 23, 2009

Miracle Liquid
No, I'm not talking about coffee - though you can drink it. And clean with it. And disinfect food with it. And enjoy an "odor-free" Japanese taxi because of it. That's right. I'm talking about electrolyzed water (via the LAT):
...a simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose ions have been scrambled with an electric current... Some hotel workers are calling it el liquido milagroso -- the miracle liquid.

That's as good a name as any for a substance that scientists say is powerful enough to kill anthrax spores without harming people or the environment.

Used as a sanitizer for decades in Russia and Japan, it's slowly winning acceptance in the United States. A New York poultry processor uses it to kill salmonella on chicken carcasses. Minnesota grocery clerks spray sticky conveyors in the checkout lanes. Michigan jailers mop with electrolyzed water to keep potentially lethal cleaners out of the hands of inmates.
This is just too cool. Anything that replaces bleach and other cleaning products is great. But to find one that costs "less than a penny a gallon?" Not to mention the health benefits to the janitors and hotel housecleaners who are exposed to toxic chemicals all day everyday. The only downside is that it's not shelf-stable and the equipment to make it costs a few thousand dollars - which is why it's been an industrial solution to this point. No doubt someone will come up with a consumer product soon enough - and given how much most of us spend on cleaning products it likely will be a money-saver down the road. But the really fascinating bit is this:
Minnesota food scientist Joellen Feirtag... installed an electrolysis unit in her laboratory and began researching the technology. She found that the acid water killed E. coli, salmonella, listeria and other nasty pathogens. Yet it was gentle enough to soothe her children's sunburns and acne.

She's now encouraging food processors to take a look at electrolyzed water to help combat the disease outbreaks that have roiled the industry.
Quick! Someone call Bill Marler. I'm only half-kidding. Pop quiz: which would you rather use on your food? Water or Cobalt-60? This is not a trick question.

This is one ball that needs to start rolling ASAP.

As for the Japanese taxi thing. Read on (stop if you're about to eat):
Sanyo is bent on cleaning up Japan's taxis with a tiny air purifier that fits into a car's cup holder. The device uses electrolyzed water to shield passengers from an unwelcome byproduct of Japan's binge-drinking business culture: vomit.

"There was some concern about the spreading of viruses and bacteria via the taxi, not to mention the . . . stinky smells," Sanyo spokesman Aaron Fowles said.
I don't make this stuff up.

Photo courtesy NBC. Idea for photo courtesy LAT.

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