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If you don't succeed the first time....

When a thick, slimy concoction developed by two Australians failed as a cattle feed, they thought its slippery consistency might make it useful as a lubricant. That didn't work, either, but in the process of testing it, they discovered that it had a remarkable ability to withstand heat. Now available as an American-made product called Water-Jel, the strange mixture has found a variety of applications in the prevention of burns and the emergency treatment of burn victims, and has been used by fire departments, the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Containing eucalyptus oil and various other plant extracts, the product is a thick, water-soluble semiliquid that protects against heat as high as 2,000 [degrees] F when applied to the skin. Its heat-resistant quality can be demonstrated by merely dipping one's hand in the mixture and applying the heat of a cigarette lighter, with no ill effect. Similarly, a coarse cloth soaked in Water-Jel and placed over the hand resists the heat of a propane torch. Firefighters have used the product in both forms--smearing the mixture on their hands and covering themselves with a Water-Jel blanket before going into a burning building to rescue a victim. Thus attired, a rescuer can enter a burning room to reach a victim and, by draping him with another such blanket, can lead or carry him to safety. Similarly, a person trapped in a crashed autho that may catch fire, but who cannot be immediately removed, can be covered with the blanket and thus protected while he is being freed from the wreckage.

When a Water-Jel blanket is thrown over a person whose clothing is one fire, it not only immediately extinguishes the fire, but also lowers skin temperature, easing the pain and calming the patient. Because it is bacteriostatic (inhibits bacterial growth), it retards infection, and its water solubility makes it easy for emergency room personnel to remove debris from the burned patient.

The product is available in liquid form and in blankets of coarse material that have been impregnated with the substance and packed in canisters that are readily carried in fire trucks or other rescue vehicles. It is also available in sterile dressings that can be used to cover smaller burns while the victim is being transported to the hospital. Why the mixture is so effective in shielding the body from intensive heat is not entirely clear, but demonstrations conducted on a number of national TV shows, showing a blanket-draped person in ordinary street clothes walking unharmed between walls of fire, have been very impressive.
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Title Annotation:new product called Water-Jel protects against burns
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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