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All about ‘Air Doctor’ — the personal sanitiser pouch worn by Army chief Gen. Naravane

Companies that manufacture the air-purifier packages claim they can offer protection against airborne afflictions such as influenza, cold and flu, allergy, but not Covid.

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New Delhi: On a day-long visit to Tezpur in Assam Thursday, Army chief General M.M. Naravane was seen walking around with a conspicuous new addition to his uniform. While it looked like one, the thing hanging from Gen. Naravane’s shirt was not a government-issued badge.

It was actually a personal protection device that is sold with the promise of disinfecting the air around a person, ThePrint has learnt. 

The particular brand of personal air sanitiser sported by the Army chief is manufactured by a US-based company called EcoShield. The company claims the clip-on pouch can provide protection against airborne infectious pathogens by disinfecting the air in a 3-foot radius around a person. 

The pouch, which costs about $20 (approx. Rs 1,500), is based on Japanese technology. Following activation, it releases chlorine dioxide gas over a period of 30 days. 

EcoShield is not the only company manufacturing such pouches. Japanese company Kiyou Jochugiku also creates similar pouches and launched the product for sale in India in June. 

Chlorine dioxide has widespread uses. It is used as a bleaching agent in paper industries, a disinfectant in hospital settings, and as a biocide in swimming pools. 

Companies that manufacture the air-purifier packages claim that the pouch can offer protection against airborne afflictions and diseases such as influenza, cold and flu, allergy, H1N1, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other respiratory infections. However, neither of the companies claims that it can help prevent Covid-19.

Also Read: Thoroughbred infantryman, soft-spoken, firm: How officers describe next Army Chief Naravane

Much unknown

The health effects of constant exposure to chlorine dioxide are not fully understood. Since the gas is volatile (i.e. it evaporates quickly) and is water-soluble, exposure to chlorine gas in industrial set-ups is very low. As a result, there is very little data on how constant inhalation of the gas can affect human health. 

However, according to a document put together by the WHO, there is “evidence for eye and respiratory tract irritation in humans associated with unknown airborne levels of chlorine dioxide gas”. In high humidity conditions, the gas is likely to be absorbed by the moisture and settle on cool surfaces, putting a person at risk of skin exposure. 

The US government’s Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) recommends that the level of chlorine dioxide in workplace air for safety should be at 0.1 parts per million (ppm), or 0.3 milligrams (mg) per cubic metres (m3) in industrial settings. 

The efficacy of such air-purifier pouches outdoors has yet to be established, with Kiyou Jochugiku saying it becomes less effective in open-air settings. 

Both the companies claim that the chlorine oxide levels discharged by the product are safe, but it does not have the US regulator FDA’s approval so far. 

Earlier this year, the FDA had warned sellers against marketing ingestible chlorine dioxide products as a ‘miracle cure’ against Covid-19. 

The companies selling the air-purifier pouches do not specify the level of chlorine dioxide used. 

(With inputs from Snehesh Alex Philip)

Also Read: Anti-smog towers, the SC solution to Delhi air pollution, not ready for immediate use


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