Specialist Column

Small Materials but Big Roles for the Hygiene – Part 1

TAKASHI YAMAMOTO

TAKASHI YAMAMOTO
LINTEC Corporation
Section Manager, Marketing Group, Market Development Office

He joined the company in 1992. After working in a research institute, Osaka branch, and overseas (China), he returned to Japan and joined the current department. He is promoting the development of new markets and new applications for adhesive materials such as stickers and labels.
At home, he is in charge of sticker removal on garbage day. “Whenever I go to a store,” he said, “ I always peel off the labels of products and smell them, which makes the clerks look at me suspiciously. Incidentally, I am not mentally strong enough to endure being looked at suspiciously, soI feel guilty everytime I leave the store.”

In 2020, the first case of the COVID-19 was confirmed in Japan, and since then, the infection has spread quickly, causing people to reconsider their lifestyles, tastes, and concepts of hygiene. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the things that we used to be able to do and interact with normally have changed into special things because of the spread of the COVID-19.

In terms of public hygiene, fixtures and fittings installed in places and spots visited by an unspecified number of people, such as train stations, department stores, and restaurants, are always equipped with antibacterial products. In Japan, the outbreak of mass food poisoning caused by pathogenic E. coli "O-157" in 1996 may have first triggered antibacterial measures.

Bacteria, of course, exist everywhere in our daily lives, and many exist in the human body as well. In terms of history, they are probably much older than humans. They may be more influential on the living environment on earth than humans. The reason why we, the newest generation in history, are able to live without much concern is because they are still necessary for human life. On the other hand, we have been able to overcome the bacteria that threaten our lives and livelihood. There is no problem with necessary preventative requirements, but there was still a great deal of damage before the virus could be overcome. With the advancement of science and technology, the damage has been reduced, but it will never be eliminated because we are dealing with something unknown. And this time, with the outbreak of new viruses as well as bacteria, we need to overcome them including potential symbioses. As we all know, viruses, like bacteria, exist everywhere in the world, regardless of whether they are good or bad for us.

Bacteria and viruses have an inextricable relationship with human life. Looking at the routes of infection, there is no doubt that some kind of contact, whether direct or indirect, is the trigger. When it comes to preventing infections, the physical procedures of washing hands and gargling are probably the most basic.

When I was a child, I was often told to remember to wash my hands and gargle when I came home from outside, but as I've gotten older, my body has become more immune, and the frequency of my hand washing and gargling has definitely decreased. When I go out to eat, I tend to eat the food straight after ordering it... However, in the past year, I feel that the pace of running out of soap is definitely increasing. In addition, the government, local governments, and companies have recommended hand washing and gargling and avoiding dense environments.

I think that what these customs and notices have in common is paying attention to physical protection procedures.

Incidentally, of the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), the sense of touch is said to account for about 1.5% of our total sensory experience. To put it crudely, it means that we need to be very careful in order to be aware of 1.5% of external information. For example, if you are visually impaired, the sense of touch is very important. However, the importance of the things that we evaluate based on the amount of information we receive is not something that can be judged by a large or small percentage.

As the spread of COVID-19 continues, what we have learned is that, as mentioned earlier, being careful about physical contact seems to be quite effective in preventing infection. There are many theories, but hand washing and gargling are common practices in Japan, but surprisingly rare in the rest of the world. Regardless of the pros and cons of medical treatment, the small number of infected people compared to other countries may be attributed to these customs.

Contact prevention is a combination of two elements: one is of course "touching" and the other is "being touched." As for touching, I think you can do something about it yourself with the measures mentioned above. In the second part of this article, I would like to talk more about how to deal with "being touched" rather than "touching" and how such measures relate to self-adhesive materials.

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