New Delhi: They look like the facial wipes available in the market, but what makes them different is that they are meant to clean off radioactive material from the body during a nuclear disaster. Developed by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the unique decontamination wipe is catching the attention of vendors who cater to NATO forces.
Scientists working on it claim the wipe, developed at the DRDO Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) here, can remove over 95 percent of the contamination.
At Rs.10 (20 cents), the 5cm x 5cm wipe - the size of a face wipe - is easy to use and dispose of.
According to the scientists, these decontamination wipes will be useful for people working in nuclear plants and those living around them, as also during any nuclear disaster like what happened at Fukushima in Japan.
"This is one-of-a-kind product not known to have been developed by anyone else," R.K. Sharma of INMAS's CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) division, told IANS in an interview.
"The decontamination procedure with the use of soap and water removes most of the external contaminants. But the accidental release of a number of radio-isotopes in the environment could contaminate water also, thereby limiting its availability or sometimes it may be scarce," he said.
"In view of this, the self-usable skin decontamination wipe has been developed for immediate application after the release of the contaminant," Sharma added.
Named radio-decontamination wipes, the project costs Rs. 495,000 ($9,200) and INMAS has already initiated the process for patenting the technology.
"Once we get it patented, we would propose keeping this wipes not just with disaster management forces like NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) but also at Metro stations and with local authorities like the state police," Sharma said.
Following a major earthquake, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling chambers of three of Fukushima's Daiichi reactors Mar 11, 2011. There were no deaths but over 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes to prevent exposure to radiation.
The decontamination wipe causes no skin toxicity and has been found to be safe, effective and non-irritant.
INMAS has already received a request from British-based Branco Diagnostics and an Indian company, Novel, for transfer of technology for mass production of the decontamination wipes.
An email from the Branco Diagnotics in October said: "We understand that you are developing radiation decontamination wipes and have completed efficacy studies and skin safety studies under the Drug and Cosmetics Act 1940."
"We are interested to take this technology from your organisation for commercializing the same. Branco produces reactive skin decontamination lotion (which removes chemical warfare agents), which is used by the US Department of Defense and military forces in NATO countries," the letter said.
INMAS has sent both the requests to the DRDO's marketing wing - the Directorate of Industry Interface and Technology Management (DIITM).
The wipes come in a small packing along with a sealed disposal zipper bag so that the contamination doesn't spread further after wipe is used.
The institute has also published the results of its study in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics in September, the official said.
(Richa Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)