The personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers have urged the Centre to also notify Mumbai-based Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA) lab for testing PPE kits as the Coimbatore-based South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) lab is facing backlog of cases and therefore had stopped receiving samples until May 1, 2020.
There are close to 35 approved manufacturers of PPEs in the country.
The current capacity of SITRA lab is 30 PPE samples per day and the backlog of cases was 300 PPE samples until last week. “We are planning to ramp up testing capacity by putting additional equipment for synthetic blood resistance test to clear the backlog,” informed Dr Prakash Vasudevan, director, SITRA, Coimbatore.
Both SITRA and BRTA, besides being textile research agencies, are also nodal agencies for promoting and building technical textiles production base in the country. BTRA has been working in various fields of technical textiles for the last two decades and in a host of other technical textile areas such as conductive fabrics in which BTRA has developed fabric sensors for medical, security and high altitude clothing requirements.
This comes close on the heels of Indian government having notified eight labs to test and certify PPEs in the country with four more being notified on April 30, 2020. The newly notified ones are Ordnance Factory, Muradnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Ordnance Factory, Ambernath, near Mumbai, Ordnance Factory, Kanpur and Metal and Steel Factory, Ishapore, Kolkata.
“Cases have also been detected wherein unregistered manufacturers are using sub-standard lamination on the Coveralls or PPEs for blood penetration resistance just to meet WHO stipulated specification of 100 GSM thickness, putting the users safety at risk. Cases have come to light of unapproved PPEs being sold in Uttarakhand and Maharashtra due to lack of regulation and standards,” according to a manufacturer on condition of anonymity. WHO and the union health ministry have also issued notifications this month to regulate the production of PPEs among Indian manufacturers in line with the global regulatory specifications.
Union ministry of textiles had designated Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, Tamil Nadu and Small Arms Factory (SAF), Kanpur, UP under Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in addition to two notified labs earlier –SITRA and the Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior for testing and certifying PPE kits.
The new notified labs under OFB are equipped with synthetic blood penetration resistance tests facilities for conducting testing and certification required for body coverall or PPE for COVID 19.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently shifted testing facility from DRDE, Gwalior to Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), Delhi to overcome time delays and swift delivery of PPE and masks. INMAS is another premier life science laboratory of DRDO and is fully operational for testing and evaluation of body suits and masks. More than 50 batches of these items have already been tested at the laboratory.
Pharmabiz had earlier reported that only two notified labs –SITRA, Coimbatore and the DRDE, Gwalior were notified for testing and accrediting a huge quantum of PPE manufactured and imported in the country. PPE acts as a protective gear for healthcare workers who are at most risk of infection as they are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
Established in the year 1956, SITRA, as one of the best equipped textile research organisations in the world, houses well-equipped testing, electronics and calibration laboratories and pilot mills and has a full range of sophisticated textile testing instruments and modern machines