Killer Clothing Bursts Bad Bacteria

Benn found that some of the socks -- he did not test Eurosocks -- released the silver after multiple washings. The findings are published in Environmental Science and Technology, the American Chemical Society's journal.

Still, Amylon stands by the durability of fungus-fighting socks: "A sock is a consumable product. Italian craftsmanship reinforces the durability of our sock, but any item will age and wear over time."

Benn also expressed some concern that the shed nanosilver particles might accumulate in wastewater systems.

"Nanosilver might be able to persist longer in surface waters," Benn said. "There could be an accumulation in the wastewater treatment biosolids, which could render them unusable as an agricultural fertilizer. Or the nanosilver could travel through a wastewater treatment plant back out into our surface waters."

There is ongoing debate about the possible environmental impacts of silver nanoparticles.

In addition to concerns about biodegradability, others question whether microbes may adapt to the silver's lethality.

"One issue is: Is it doing any good? Is it doing any harm? Could you get a silver-resistant organism?" Weber said.

The Germ Terminator

Few objects get more acquainted with your insides than your toothbrush.

A microbiology project he did in college unveiled to Jim Song, inventor of the Germ Terminator, just how germ-coated a toothbrush can get.

The Germ Terminator

"There were so many of them," Song said. "After 48 hours, the smell was so bad. There were well over 500 species of bacteria."

That research led to Song's invention of a toothbrush sterilization device. Essentially a mini-autoclave for the toothbrush, the Germ Terminator uses steam and dry heat to kill germs that breed on the bristles.

The Germ Terminator also "makes the bristles [of the toothbrush] nice and soft," Song claimed, so that they won't puncture the gumline.

But after considering the Germ Terminator apparatus, Fishman was perplexed.

"This one befuddled me," Fishman said. "Mouths are filled with bacteria -- some of them are good bacteria and some of them are bad bacteria. Usually, we don't worry about bacteria in the mouth because they don't spread anywhere."

Fishman added that the acid in our stomachs generally kills a lot of the bad bacteria that traverses through our bodies.

Song, though, said he believes it's important to be educated about what we put into our mouths with our toothbrushes.

"We are our own dentists every single time we brush," he noted.

Anti-Microbial Paint

While most people are worrying about that fly on the wall eavesdropping on their conversations, some researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are more concerned about the germs that share the same surface.

Alexander Klibanov, professor of chemistry and bioengineering at MIT, has been developing an anti-microbial paint that can prevent the transmission of the flu and other viruses, as well as destroy pathogenic bacteria.

When in contact with a virus, a polymer in Klibanov's paint attacks viruses by poking holes in its protective outer membrane, rendering the virus noninfective and thus, unable to multiply.

The idea is to use the anti-microbial paint not just on walls, but in ventilation ducts, on doorknobs and on medical tools used in hospitals.

Fishman agrees with the potential the paint holds as an effective anti-viral product.

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