Things are reopening, and it’s happening whether or not people are ready for it. How do we make sure our staff, our families, and our world is safe from not only the novel coronavirus, but the possibility of other deadly pathogens? Here to brighten our future, lighting technology may be the answer.
We know about UV light (especially if you’ve ever been severely sunburnt), but it’s rare to discuss UV lights’ different types and wavelengths. UVA, which comes from the sun, and UVC currently used to kill pathogens, can both cause cancer and damage to humans’ skin and eyes, but “Far-UVC”? This is where things begin to change.
Ultraviolet light at the far end of the spectrum (Far-UVC), is harmless to human skin, but deadly to bacteria, viruses, and other dangerous pathogens. Developed at Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, and pioneered in the U.S and Japan, continuous, low does of this UV light (222 nanometer on the light spectrum) in highly trafficked (indoor) areas could change the way we view germs forever.
Columbia University’s David Brenner “calls Far-UVC a potential game-changer.”
The light “kills pathogens in the air before we can breathe them in.” A study found the Far-UVC “wiped out” coronaviruses “responsible for coughs and colds,” and it’s assumed to be just as effective on our current COVID-19 causing microorganism.
You might still be wondering, how safe is UVC for humans? In a long-term Japanese study on mice modified to be sensitive to UV damage, proof was found that “direct and repetitive illumination from 222nm ultraviolet radiation… does not cause skin cancer.”
No longer will rooms need to be evacuated for UV sterilization, with 222 nm UVC, small doses of light can be shone on any surface, at any time, and be disinfected completely. Real world applications include hand sanitization, in schools, food-preparation facilities, and public restrooms.
The idea that UV light could “zap” microbes was first discovered in 1877 when “a pair of British researchers found that bathing bacteria-filled test tubes in sunlight extinguished the microbes.” Continued experiments from this revelation acknowledged that infection rates (measles) were dramatically reduced when UV lamps were installed in public schoolrooms at Harvard in the 1930s.
Microbe’s genetic code is “scrambled” by the UV light, “making it impossible for the pathogens to reproduce and infect humans.”
Since the rise in widespread antibiotic use has resulted in “super-bugs” resistant to drugs, UVC research finally has its chance to shine. Brenner explains, “We actually know how to kill every kind of microbe, every kind of virus, every kind of bacteria, with UV light.”
Founded in 1964, Ushio makes every possible type of light and fixture, including 222nm lights. Ushio plans to accelerate its commercial production on Far-UVC excimer lamp kits this fall, making the technology available to those who may desperately need it due to COVID-19.
Although the price may be high (Ushio has not set a firm price on Far-UVC kits yet), and “shadowing” in environments where UV light may not reach every nook and cranny is its draw-backs, the potential that this technology has to prevent loss of life, and sterilize our environments in undeniable.
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