With most of the shops running out of hand sanitisers — one of the most effective weapons against COVID-19, science teachers in several colleges in Kolkata have manufactured the disinfectant in their labs and distributed it among those at high risk.
“The practical exams for chemistry students were to go on for nine days, but they had to be postponed three days after they began. Now, I cannot walk out of the college just like that, it’s my job to ensure safekeeping of the chemicals, so I kept returning to the college even after it was shut. That’s when it struck me…why not use the stock of alcohol to make hand sanitisers,” Hari Shankar Biswas, head of the chemistry department at Surendranath College, told The Hindu.
Sanitisers require pure alcohol — not what is sold in liquor shops — which only licence-holders can purchase. Dr. Biswas, who holds the licence on behalf of the college, had purchased sufficient amount of it shortly after Durga Puja.
“With the permission of the principal and the help of colleagues, I took 30 litres of alcohol from the stock to make hand sanitiser.
As per WHO guidelines, 100 ml of sanitiser must have 70 ml of alcohol — the remaining 30 ml usually is water, glycerine and a dash of hydrogen peroxide,” Dr. Biswas said.
He used rosewater to give his product a fragrance, and also added to few drops of the dye methylene blue to impart it a blue colour. Calling it ‘Sparsha’, he distributed some 500 bottles of 60 ml to those who really needed it: non-teaching staff, policemen on duty outside the college, shops giving photocopies and printouts.
Dr. Biswas is not alone. Aparna Sen, head of microbiology department at the Lady Brabourne College, also undertook a similar initiative. “I must thank our principal Siuli Sarkar, she gave us the go-ahead in spite of our limited resources. We managed to make 200 bottles of about 100 ml each. We used rose fragrance and gave the sanitiser a pink colour,” Dr. Sen said. She distributed some of the bottles among the non-teaching staff — “who travel in buses and trams and need them the most” — and on Monday representatives from the local police station and the SSKM Hospital also came to the college to collect the product for their staff.
Amrita Kar, associate professor in the chemistry department of Bethune College, also managed to make some 50 bottles of 60-70 ml each, using ethanol and distilled water. Most of the bottles were distributed to the non-teaching staff. “We are merely doing our duty in the time of a crisis,” Dr. Kar said.
Source: The Hindu