On one side scientists strive day in and day out to make our mother earth a more beautiful and livable place, on the other this advancement of science end up adding up more miseries due to negligent and some times selfish ways of handling them.
While the plastic is an inseparable part of human life today, it’s abuse- failure to discard non-recyclable varieties and absence of systematic disposal protocol over the years, has now become a serious threat to the very existence of our planet.
The bio-medical waste produced by various health care facilities, diagnostic centres and molecular research laboratories is an equally dangerous pollutant, though not comparable to plastic in magnitude.
Unfortunately, there has been no way to assess the damage this waste causes to mankind and the environment. But, the release of this waste untreated adding up to the water-woes of the people, who are already facing acute water scarcity in urban areas of India.
Against this backdrop, it is heartening to know the inspiring story of a Bengaluru scientist, who is striving to save the scarce water resources from being contaminated by the ever-increasing release of bio-medical waste.
B V Padmanabha, who hails from a farmers’ family from Bhadravathi of Shivamogga district, Karnataka has come up with a solution to the menace of the chemical contamination of water.
On the way to the development of a universal detoxifier, Padmanabha’ s startup, Innovations for Next Generation (ING), has successfully developed, as a first step, Ethidium Bromide (EtBr) detoxifier.
Ethidium Bromide Menace
Ethidium Bromide, a mutagen chemical, is employed to visualize the DNA under UV light in laboratories. However valued this may be, the release of residue untreated without concern for harmful effects on humans is polluting the surface as well as groundwater.
The toxicity of EtBr is so powerful that it has the potential to distort the very genetic material in human beings.
Having realised the ill-effects of EtBr, Padmanabha first chose to develop EtBr Detoxifier to neutralise the toxin.
Buoyed by this initial success, Padmanabha has now embarked on a much larger mission of developing a universal detoxifier.
“Most of the laboratories do not follow the proper procedure which is bound to pollute both the surface as well as groundwater resources. The problem is not just limited to Ethidium Bromide. It remains same for almost all the chemical pollutants released by labs and industries universally,” Padmanabha told Trending Telugu News.
The startup has already started manufacturing EtBr detoxifier and supplying them to institutions such as IISc, GKVK and private companies such as Bangalore GeNei Laboratories.
Now, he is planning to improvise it by developing advanced cartridges with sleeker models.
A post-graduate in (M.Sc) Plant Physiology in 2001, Padmanabha gravitated towards the launching of ING in 2018, exclusively to save the drinking water, which is going to be the major problem across the globe in near future, from being contaminated by the chemical pollutants.
What inspired Padmanabha?
The simple fact that drove the forest science student towards pollutants was the transition of once water-rich regions into areas of acute water scarcity.
“I come from a small town in south India named Bhadravathi, located on the banks of River Bhadra. During my schooling, we did not now know what the value of water is since the entire region is supported by rivers, channels and dams. Only when we got relocated to Bangalore for higher education during 1998, did we realize that the actual value of water in the scarcity. Due to rapid urbanization in Bangalore, the water is a polluted and highly scarce commodity,” Padmanabha said.
What Are the Nosocomial Infections?
All the health care centres, right from big corporate hospitals to the tiny diagnostic centres at the bottom of the ladder, generate bio-medical waste which consists of samples of blood and urine etc along with used needles and cotton, chemicals etc.
What worried Padmanabha was the short shrift people give to the systematic disposal of the bio-medical waste.
Padmanabha noted that several hospitals and PHCs discard the hazardous bio-medical waste with indifference in the outskirts of towns and villages or into the nearby drains and canals.
“The bacteria and other impurities present in the bio-medical waste cause sickness among the patients in hospitals due to what doctors call Nosocomial Infections. These infections often develop resistant to anti-biotics. If the same hazardous waste is thrown recklessly into canal and rivers, the pollutants get mixed up with water,” he said.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Gives Nod
To address the issue of treatment of biomedical waste Padmanabha developed a device called ‘Automated Liquid Bio-medical Waste Sanitizer’.
This machine can effectively sanitize all kinds of hazardous bio-medical waste in a safe and secure way.
Padmanabha’s device has been given the preliminary approval by a forum instituted jointly by the Indian Government, BIRAC (Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The consortium is floated to promote the research for the protection of nature and human beings. The next scrutiny of the sanitizer for final approval is slated on August 28 at a high-level meeting in Delhi.
“The present model needs to be updated with ultra-modern equipment and user- friendly features facilitating hassle-free handling by hospitals and diagnostic centres. We need at least two years of time and Rs 2 crore funds for the purpose,” he said. Padmanabha has already patented an eco-friendly bioplastic variety, and three more patents are in the pipeline.
Padmanabha has expressed his gratitude to the scientists and Manish Diwan head of SPED, BIRAC, and Ms Deepanwita, chairperson and CEO of IKP, and Ranajit Sen and Viswanadham of IKP for encouraging and extending support under Solutions for Community Health and Biotechnology Ignition Grant programmes.
(Yanamala Nagireddy is a journalist based at Bangalore.Ph 9441041683)