A Columbia University study shows that a particular type of ultraviolet light not only kills various forms of coronavirus, but it’s also safe to use around people. Far-UVC light can destroy airborne droplets carrying the virus, even with very low exposure, researchers say.
According to the study Far-UVC light can destroy airborne droplets that are carrying the virus even with low exposure, and this unique form of UV light may be the key to safely disinfecting any spaces where people gather regularly as this light doesn’t penetrate skin or damage human cells.
What is far-UVC light?
Although they work on the same light spectrum, far-UVC light has some key differences from regular UV rays. Far-UVC light has a shorter wavelength and more photon energy compared to standard UVC.
According to the study, published in Scientific Reports, regular UV light used to kill germs has a wavelength of 254 nanometers. While that’s great for killing the coronavirus, researchers say it “can be a health hazard to skin and eyes.”
Far-UVC’s wavelength ranges between 207 and 222 nm, which the study reveals “efficiently kills pathogens potentially without harm to exposed human tissues.” Researchers say far-UVC can’t break through the tear layer of the eye, nor penetrate the outer layer of dead cells on skin.
“Because it’s safe to use in occupied spaces like hospitals, buses, planes, trains, train stations, schools, restaurants, offices, theaters, gyms, and anywhere that people gather indoors, far-UVC light could be used in combination with other measures, like wearing face masks and washing hands, to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses,” said Dr. David Brenner.
“Far-UVC light doesn’t really discriminate between coronavirus types, so we expected that it would kill SARS-CoV-2 in just the same way,” Brenner explains. “Since SARS-CoV-2 is largely spread via droplets and aerosols that are coughed and sneezed into the air it’s important to have a tool that can safely inactivate the virus while it’s in the air, particularly while people are around.”
COVID-19 spreads through droplets and aerosols that are expelled into the air by an infected person who coughs or sneezes. This study is pointing to an effective relatively cheap method of deactivating the virus while it is airborne in crowded areas. It is possible to hang overhead Far-UVC lamps/lighting at indoor public spaces and transportation without the fear of injuring any people. The researchers note that the addition of this type of lighting would be useful at lowering the spread of other viruses such as the flu as well.
“Based on our results, continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people,” says the study’s lead author David Brenner, PhD, Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
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There we have it, disinfection of public spaces can be done easily, effectively and safely at a relatively cheap price. Similar approaches are already being used in hospitals to sanitize rooms and equipment. Now it is up to the policy makers and powers that be to utilize this widely available option to add to public safety measures to help better control this outbreak that is actually backed by science.