Tag Archives: refrigeration

Deaths That Don’t Have to Happen: The Relationship Between Knowledge and Health

Editor’s note: As part of  a writing class I took this summer, I had to do a group project addressing a social issue within our society.

Part of that assignment was writing an essay that promotes activism to address the issue.The research inspired me, so I decided to share that essay with you. Hope you enjoy! 


Knowledge, and the desire to use it to better our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone else. This is what has made our species so great.

Fire, the wheel, internal plumbing, electricity, refrigeration. All of these creations were the result of intelligent people with an insatiable drive to solve major problems that affected everyone within their communities.

As the world progressed into the modern era, more and more of these advancements came from the realm of medicine. For thousands of years, smallpox was a scourge that regularly plagued populations all over the world.

A close-up of the smallpox virus. Click to enlarge. Magnification: x28,500

In the 19th century, the disease was killing 400,000 Europeans every year. In the 20th century, it accounted for an estimated 300 million deaths worldwide.

Now, consider this: the vaccine for smallpox was discovered, by a man named William Jenner, in 1796. However, it took more than 160 years for the World Health Assembly to pass a worldwide resolution to eradicate the disease in 1959, and another 20 years for the disease to be completely eradicated.

There hasn’t been a single documented death from smallpox since 1980, but it took nearly 200 years to make that happen.

Click to enlarge

Our modern world is no different. Every year, 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases, half of that being children 5 years old or younger.

Other preventable diseases, like diarrhea and pneumonia, claim the lives of another 2 million children who are simply too poor to afford things like clean water and basic treatment.

If you’re keeping track, that’s 3.5 million children dying every year from basic problems that we solved ages ago. Another way to think of it: imagine every kid enrolled in public school in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston dying this year. Imagine, just for a second, all the human potential that we are losing along with these children.

I know you may be thinking that it’s somewhat inevitable that developing countries lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to new vaccines, treatments or procedures, so chew on this for a second: out of a list of 18 developed countries, the United States was at the very bottom when it came to deaths from preventable causes.

For people under the age of 75, these preventable causes account for 23% of total deaths for men and 32% of total deaths for women.

Preventable disease per 100,000 citizens. Click to enlarge

How many more people are we going to let die simply because they lack access to resources that are so plentiful that they are taken for granted by the rest of us?

We have to always remember that the position of privilege we find ourselves in only exists because someone at some point in history fought for our right to good healthcare.

So now, it is our responsibility, our duty, to use this position of privilege to extend this same basic human right to health to the countless people still living without it, not only in our country but across the globe.

Superheated Liquid Nitrogen in a Vacuum Does Some Crazy Things… (Video)

Liquid nitrogen has one of the lowest boiling points of any known substance at -321ºF, which is why anything that comes in contact with the substance is usually flash-frozen.

A substance’s boiling point varies with air pressure. For example, at sea level, water boils at 100ºC (212ºF). But at the top of Mt. Everest, where the air pressure is only about a third of what it is at sea level, water will boil at 71ºC (160ºF).

So as the air is sucked out of the vacuum, the liquid nitrogen’s boiling point drops below the substance’s temperature inside the vacuum, making it a superheated fluid. This superheated liquid nitrogen does some crazy things:

The evaporation of the nitrogen during boiling cools it back down until it freezes solid. In an attempt to align its molecules in a more tightly-packed pattern, all of the atoms will reorient themselves in a fraction of a second, causing cracks to spread quickly in fractal patterns across the solid nitrogen.

Liquid nitrogen isn’t just cool for science experiments. It’s widely used in every day life as a refrigerant for the freezing and transportation of food and as a coolant for superconductors. It’s even used to freeze off skin abnormalities like warts.

(h/t IFL Science)

Why Are American Eggs Illegal In Britain and British Eggs Illegal In America?

It all comes down to the debate over whether or not it’s a good idea to wash eggs before putting them on the shelves. In the United States, USDA standards require that all eggs must be washed before being sold to consumers.

The standards specify that American eggs must be washed with an odorless detergent and water that is at least 90°F and a minimum of 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the egg. The eggs must then be thoroughly dried.

This last step is where a lot of the controversy arises. A completely dry egg is almost completely impervious to bacteria, but even a thin layer of moisture facilitates the flow of bacteria into the egg.

Eggs being washed

Health officials in Europe are worried that washing eggs may do more harm than good, fearing that the drying process won’t be meticulously carried out every single time.

They also fear the possibility that some eggs could end up soaking in cold sanitizing water that hasn’t been changed out in a while. Cold water causes eggs to contract inwards- this contraction pulls liquid from the shell’s surroundings into its interior. If this liquid happens to be old, cold water, there is a high chance it contains bacteria.

Then there’s a little something known as the cuticle. As a hen is laying an egg, she applies a thin, mucous-like coating to the outside of the shell. It is wet for the first few minutes, but it quickly dries and creates a protective layer that keeps out carbon dioxide and moisture which can spoil and contaminate the egg.

Anatomy of the egg (cuticle is in the SHELL section)

The EU’s egg regulators say that the egg’s natural cuticle provides,

“an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties.”

This is one of the main reasons why they oppose the washing of eggs, which often removes part or all of the cuticle layer.

Finally, there’s the issue of refrigeration. In Europe eggs are on non-refrigerated shelves and stay close to room temperature from the time they are collected to the time they are bought and consumed.

This is because when you take a cold, refrigerated egg out into warmer air, moisture in the air condenses on it. According to the EU regulations, this facilitates the growth bacteria both outside and inside the shell.

So why would we refrigerate eggs in the United States? The answer in related to another major difference between American and British eggs: salmonella vaccination.

Salmonella is the main bacterial culprit of contaminated eggs. It can come from feces getting on the egg,  but it can also come from feces getting into the hen’s reproductive tract before the shell even forms. When this happens, the salmonella is inside the egg from jump- no amount of washing can de-contaminate it.

During an outbreak in the late 90s, thousands of people in the UK got salmonella poisoning in a very short period time. Ever since then, British farmers have been vaccinating their hens against salmonella to avoid the costs of being the source of a health crisis. While hen vaccination is not required by law, farmers must do it if they want their eggs certified by Britain’s official Lion Quality Mark.

Today, 90% of all eggs in the UK are from vaccinated hens, and most of the remaining 10% come from small farmers who don’t sell their eggs to retail chains. Reported cases of salmonella poisoning in the UK dropped from 14,771 in 1997 to just 581 in 2009.

Here in the United States, there’s no vaccination requirements. Consequently, we have about 142,000 cases of illness from consuming salmonella-contaminated eggs every year.

So back to refrigeration. A study in the early 90s showed that non-refrigerated eggs didn’t experience any significant salmonella growth in the first 21 days. After that, however, the eggs quickly became contaminated. More research has shown that storing eggs in colder temperatures inhibits the growth of bacteria over a much longer period of time.

So, to keep eggs from our unvaccinated American hens on the shelves longer, we refrigerate them. What do you think?

Read more from Forbes here.