Indians make oxygen at home. The results are dangerous


Sayan Baishnab just strapped a plastic inhaler to a friend’s face while his assistant holds a device made from a take-out box, a bottle of mineral water, electrical wires and a tube carrying mysterious bubbles from the bottle to the inhaler. Tense music plays in the background as Baishnab leans back to inspect his friend’s inhalation. A few seconds still full of suspense pass before his friend, who seems visibly under pressure, withdraws the inhaler and announces the verdict: “Oxygen Ashche. “Baishnab grabs the inhaler and straps it around his nose and mouth. A breath later, he chuckles,” WOW! Really great! 100% oxygen Ashche! “

What the 22-year-old student just did in front of the camera was try to separate oxygen from water using electrolysis, a chemical experiment described in his old textbook. Off-camera, however, the YouTuber isn’t quite sure how effective his homemade oxygen is. “I am not satisfied with the product. It needs to be cleaner. To get this medical approval, it will need to be massively improved. Such a small amount cannot be given to a corona patient even in an emergency, “he said on the phone from a village near Kolkata. But watching the news he said he had to. to try. ” The situation is very bad. India faces many deaths. I make videos based on viewer demand, and that’s what my subscribers were asking for in the message groups, ”he said.

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Viewers’ demands stem from India’s urgent need for oxygen as coronavirus infections officially cross 18 million and unofficially many more. As hospitals run out of oxygen and governments avoid accountability, families and friends resort to desperate measures, including begging, borrowing and stealing bottles, to keep patients breathing. Many of them search the Internet for advice on how to make oxygen at home. As a search term, “how to make oxygen at home” recorded a value of 100 on Google Trends on April 23. It was at 0 on April 15. Officially, 1,153 Indians died of covid-19 on April 15 and 2,624 on April 23. The oxygen shortage has continued to rise in the accounts of bereaved families. Social media content creators have been very busy at work. Over the past few weeks, dozens of Indian YouTubers have posted videos of themselves making oxygen at home; views range from thousands to millions. The comments are revealing:

“Can this be used on corona patients?”

“Is this for medical use?”

“I was looking for this after hearing the news today …”

The trend worries health professionals. Swapneil Parikh, physician and co-author of The coronavirus: what you need to know about the global pandemic, explained the risks: “I am a doctor, not a chemist, but I know medical oxygen. First, you have to produce a lot of it. Then you have to pressurize it. It must have a very high purity. There are many challenges in manufacturing medical grade oxygen. It is also a dangerous process because oxygen promotes combustion and can cause explosions. Even if you could produce it in sufficient quantities or with sufficient purity, you will still need equipment to pressurize it in a canister. I just don’t see this as a useful intervention. “

But home experiences are unstoppable. On April 22, Kritarth Tiwari, a high school student in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh, posted a YouTube video of himself making oxygen in his home. “I was watching the news. There is a crisis going on. There are too many deaths due to the lack of oxygen. “He was also concerned about his own village.” It is not yet an urgent situation here. But, day by day, the situation is getting worse. The hospitals in my area are functioning. gradually lack of oxygen. “Uttar Pradesh reported more than 300,000 active cases on April 29; the virus is believed to be rampant in its villages where government hospitals are barely prepared.

Tiwari searched the internet for ways to make oxygen at home. “I did some research on YouTube. The materials were readily available in the market. I tried a basic reaction. I borrowed it from the NCERT Class X book. Hydrogen peroxide. Six percent solution. Reaction with potassium permanganate. You can buy crystals. Exothermic reaction. Oxygen and manganese dioxide are released. “As a search term,“ hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate ”rose sharply on Google Trends through April.

Tiwary is privately as unsure of her homemade oxygen as anyone has tried it publicly. “Everything has merits and drawbacks. This process has many drawbacks. This reaction creates a lot of heat. “He will however continue to try.” Medical grade oxygen is 95% pure. We have to learn how to do this at home. It is the government’s job to provide oxygen, but I think the main problem is that it is not able to transport it, ”he said. If critical patients cannot get oxygen in the nation’s capital, he wonders how his family members in Gonda would survive a shortage. “If anything happens in my family, I will seek help through my official channels first. If there is no answer, I will try my own experience. “

Within five days of its publication, Rahul Soni’s in-house oxygen video has racked up 150,000 views. “It was the first of my videos that was so popular,” said the engineering student from Ajmer. “But I put a disclaimer. I have no responsibility. Do it at your own risk. Two people sent me videos asking me if they did all of this right. I told them to check out a doctor before trying it on a covid patient. ”He too was inspired by the news to take the matter into his own hands. “Ordinary people shouldn’t even have to worry about whether the government will provide oxygen or not. It should be readily available if such an epidemic rages on – that too for two years, ”he said.

If the government does not do its job, young people will have to step in, he said. Thanks to India’s Second Wave, young volunteers have started searching for hospital beds, oxygen and medicine across the country even as these resources are dwindling.

“Engineers must participate. I am working on something for serious patients. I have an idea on how to make a fan. Home made. And another on the pressurized oxygen system, ”Soni said.

The DIY spirit may be going too far in this case.

“Everyone wants to do something, but people don’t understand that the biggest intervention they can do right now is to break the chain and reduce the number of infections,” said Dr Parikh. “It’s an evidence-based intervention. This is the biggest contribution people can make right now. “

But now on their own, Indians are bracing for worse times to come.

“We have to think about the future. We have to prepare, “Baishnab said.” Every district, every village should have an oxygen plant. The government must be aware of this. Ordinary citizens also need to know how to produce oxygen. So far it’s the crown, but it can be another virus afterwards. We have to find oxygen – from any source. “

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