Heath experts caution against cheap hazmat suits being sold in India

New Delhi, April 26 : As they fight deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 24/7, frontline healthcare workers are facing a severe crunch of personal protection equipment (PPE) suits or hazmat suits.

Suddenly, several retail shops have cropped up across the country, offering such specialised medical suits at cheap prices.

Shops in Tirupur - also called the knitwear city of India - in Tamil Nadu are offering such suits for as low as Rs 198 and Rs 225, take minimum order for 50 suits with courier charges extra.

IANS spoke to one such seller over a phone number which has gone viral on social media, who informed that orders for his so-called anti-virus suits (one suit costs Rs 198) are coming from hospitals and medical facilities across the country, including New Delhi.

When asked about his credentials, the seller disconnected the phone, saying "low battery".

The question arises: How safe these suits are?

According to health experts, most of the suits which are available in the market are not anti-virus in nature and the zip is not properly covered.

Hence, these are open to all kind of exposures.

"These are not ideal PPE suits; these are just clothing to protect you from the droplet infections.

They don't really protect you against the virus. These designer suits don't serve any purpose. They are only for earning money," Dr P Venkata Krishnan, internal medicine specialist at Paras Hospital in Gurugram, told IANS.

The original suits have a 360-degree cover and once the person gets into the suit, that person has to zip it and put another layer of cover for the zip also so that the person is fully protected.

These suits should be worn in very special circumstances.

It is not for use for everyone.

"Ideally, it should be worn when a person has to collect the sample, visit a patient if the person is working in ICU," said the health experts.

Dr Jasmeet Kaur Wadhwa, Senior Consultant Paediatric Pulmonology and TB division, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute in New Delhi, said: "Suits or gown wore by healthcare workers looking after intensive care patients or COVID-19 patients should be non-woven, impervious or not allowing less than 0.5-micron pathogens or virus particle to cross the fabric.

It should be WHO and ISO approved".

"There are cheap and expensive suits between around Rs 400 to Rs 2,000, but the authenticity totally depend upon the parameters and certification by the concerned authorities.

Any suit available in the market must meet safety standards," Wadhwa informed.

Before buying hazmat suits, especially for the healthcare workers, certain basic things should be kept in mind.

The preferred PPE suits should be 70 GSM (gram per square metre) -- a term to check the density or thickness of the fabric used in making PPE suits.

"We usually check it by pouring water on it, this GSM should be standard not be very thin or too thick to make it uncomfortable even to sit for a doctor as she or he is supposed to be serving duty at least for eight hours," said Shiba Kalyan Biswal, Consultant, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Narayana Hospital in Gurugram.

"Before buying or opting for such suits, doctors should consider these standards," Kalyan added.

The total number of novel coronavirus cases in India reached 26,496 on Sunday.

The Health Ministry said that of the total cases, at least 19,868 are active cases.

A total of 5,803 individuals have been cured and discharged while 824 people lost their lives.

One person migrated to other country.

(Bharat Upadhyay can be reached at bharat.u@ians.in)



Source: IANS