CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – In joint efforts to lessen the spread of the coronavirus, the Chemistry Department of Xavier University (XU) – Ateneo de Cagayan has created local versions of ethyl and isopropyl alcohol to protect Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) health workers from the disease.
The NMMC is the referral hospital for all persons under investigation (PUI) for the coronavirus in the region. (READ: Northern Mindanao’s largest public hospital saves lives against the odds)
Upon learning the NMMC had insufficient rubbing alcohol, Dr Analyn Asok, a chemist and chairperson of XU’s chemistry department, and her colleagues decided to prepare localized alcohol straight from their laboratory to address the supply shortage.
“We are happy that at least in our own little way we offer some help. Being a chemist, in these times, is a blessing,” Asok expressed.
By Tuesday, March 24, the XU Chemistry Department developed and tested the localized ethyl and isopropyl alcohol in their laboratory with Dr Asok in the lead, along with licensed chemical technician Renebelle Flores, and other colleagues Higinio Barros Jr, Ann Marian Lou Eslopor, and Don Vic Obaob.
While expensive, Dr Asok said the department opted to use absolute ethanol following guidelines provided by the World Health Organization on the local production of alcohol.
“Absolute ethanol is quite expensive, however, we still pushed with this method because it’s the only way wherein we can respond to the need immediately. We are glad that the XU community supported this initiative,” Asok justified.
All the raw materials were sourced directly from the XU Chemistry Laboratory, while some donations of absolute ethanol came from the XU Biology Department.
‘Our strength is in the lab’
At the end of the production stage, 32 bottles of 70% ethanol and 11 bottles of 70% isopropanol with moisturizer were made. The chemists decided to produce two kinds of rubbing alcohol to maximize their resources and further help frontliners in the area.
“The initial purpose is only to produce 70% ethanol. But because of the great demand and we have isopropanol of high purity at hand, we decided to make 70% isopropanol so that we can donate more. After all, both can be used as disinfectant,” Asok shared.
The bottles of alcohol are already set for distribution. The university, through the XU Social Development Office, will soon be handing out the alcohol to NMMC.
Apart from the alcohol, the XU Chemistry Department will also be facilitating more donations in the form of surface disinfectants for all hospitals in Cagayan de Oro and other local government units (LGUs) soon.
They will also produce more bottles of alcohol containing 70% ethanol once they receive more absolute ethanol.
Dedicated to doing their line of work as chemists, Dr Asok said they will continue pushing for actions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as long as supplies are on hand. (READ: Kagay-anons join hands to fight coronavirus)
“Our strength is in the lab. As long as the raw materials will be provided to us, my team will surely assist in whatever way we can,” Asok said.
After Flores’ Facebook post gathered much attention online, a number of people came to their department to offer in-kind donations to help NMMC, other hospitals and LGUs.
“Though they know that absolute ethanol is expensive but still they donated some to help our frontliners,” Asok added.
As of writing, the XU Chemistry Department is planning to reach out to other departments in the university to start mass production of the alcohol. – Rappler.com
Dominic Joaquin Dublado is a mover from Cagayan de Oro City, Managing Editor at The Squire Publication – the official student publication of Xavier University Senior High School. He is an incoming college freshman at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan.