After experimenting for more than four years, scientists at IIT-Kharagpur have invented sterilized sanitary napkins made from jute-based cellulose.
Experts feel that the innovation could not only prove to be a turning point for the dying jute industry, but could also help reduce the number of cervical cancer cases in the country.
“Sanitary napkins are made from imported cotton or wood cellulose. But IIT scientists have managed to extract cellulose from jute which is being used to make sanitary napkins,” Arvind Kumar M, secretary of the National Jute Board (NJB), which funded the project, told HT on Tuesday.
Around 500 napkins were distributed among women working in jute mills and schoolgirls in some districts of the state for testing. The jute-based napkins were identical to the branded ones and the users were never told about which brands they were using. The feedback was ‘very encouraging.’
“The napkins were made to pass the cyto-toxicity tests to see if there were any bacterial contaminations. We found none. Thereafter the napkins were sterilized with UV rays before being packed. We consulted CM Ghosh, director of the state drug control, before trying the products on women,” B Adhikary, the man behind the project and a professor with the Material Science Centre at IIT Kharagpur said.
NJB has been experimenting with various jute products ranging from home décor items to jute geo-textiles used to construct roads but none of them were able to lend a fresh lease of life to the industry. NJB officials are, however, optimistic that this innovation could provide the required trigger.
“The new product, if marketed properly, could tap a portion of the Rs 2,000-crore personal hygiene market for women in India. Second, it could bring down the number of cervical cancer cases which kills more than a lakh women especially among the age group of 15 to 44 years since menstrual hygiene is one of the major causes of this cancer,” an officer of the NJB said.
Assistant director (technical) of NJB, Mahadev Dutta, said the experiment initially started with jute caddies (a byproduct of the jute mills), but later scientists extracted cellulose and used it in the napkins to make it softer.
“A special kind of super-absorbent polymer was added to the jutecellulose. The product was then made to undergo several safety tests and sterilized before being packed. We are now transferring the technology from IIT to the India Jute Industries’ Research Association (IJIRA),” Dutta said.