What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
COVID-19

Soap saves countless lives every year. Here’s how it was invented

Andie Corban May 25, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
More soap use can save lives, the World Health Organization says. Mike Coppola/Getty Images
COVID-19

Soap saves countless lives every year. Here’s how it was invented

Andie Corban May 25, 2020
Heard on:
More soap use can save lives, the World Health Organization says. Mike Coppola/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of proper hand washing, and the market for hand soap and sanitizer is growing 262%, according to Research and Markets.

No medical product has saved more human life than soap, and yet, the inventor of soap likely had no idea about its life-saving potential, according to Cody Cassidy, author of the new book “Who Ate the First Oyster? The Extraordinary People Behind the Greatest Firsts in History.

Soap was created 4,500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia.

“The first evidence that soap was made comes up in relation to wool-making, which was the primary export of these cities in ancient Mesopotamia,” Cassidy said. “Thousands of people were involved in plucking sheep and weaving the wool, and most of the weavers were women.”

Cassidy calls soap’s inventor Nini, after the Sumerian goddess of medicine, Ninisina.

“Nini worked in a textile-manufacturing plant processing wool, and she made soap as a way to remove the lanolin from the wool, which allowed them to dye it,” Cassidy said. At the time, people used her creation to clean wool and items like plates. But it wasn’t used to clean people, Cassidy said, and certainly not hands.

Because the dangerous bacterias and viruses that soap destroys are invisible, Nini had no idea what she had invented.

“Soap might seem very simple, but it might represent the greatest medical discovery ever,” Cassidy said. “The number of lives it’s saved is uncountable, and the [World Health Organization] says increased soap use could save more than a million lives per year today.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.