A Study Finds a New Type of UV Light That Could Help Fight the Spread of Airborne Diseases Indoors

A Study Finds a New Type of UV Light That Could Help Fight the Spread of Airborne Diseases Indoors

According to new research published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists have developed an ultraviolet light called Far-UVC that could help fight the spread of airborne diseases indoors.

Scientists from Columbia University, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Dundee, and the University of Leeds collaborated on a study that found, a new type of ultraviolet light that may be safe for people reduced the level of indoor airborne microbes by more than 98 percent in less than five minutes. Even when microbes were sprayed inside a room, their levels remained remarkably low as long as ultraviolet lights were turned on.

"Far-UVC rapidly reduces the number of active microbes in the indoor air to almost zero, making indoor air essentially as safe as outdoor air," said David Brenner, Ph.D., co-author of the study and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Brenner also added, "Far-UVC light is simple to install, inexpensive, does not require people to change their behavior, and, most importantly, it is a safe way to prevent the transmission of any virus, including the COVID virus and its variants, influenza, and any potential future pandemic viruses."

For decades, scientists have known that a type of ultraviolet light known as UVC light kills microbes such as bacteria and viruses quickly. However, because it is a potential health hazard to the skin and eyes, conventional germicidal UVC light cannot be used directly to destroy airborne viruses in occupied indoor spaces.

According to the findings, as Far-UVC light has a shorter wavelength than conventional germicidal UVC, it cannot penetrate living human skin or eye cells, making it safe for people. However, it works just as well against bacteria and viruses, much smaller than human cells.

During the experiment, researchers installed Five Far-UVC lamps in a controlled bioaerosol chamber the size of a single-occupancy hospital room where different building ventilation and devices can be implemented to test the potential effectiveness of approaches like this Far-UVC in a full-scale situation.

An aerosol mist of S. aureus bacteria was continuously emitted into the room by a sprayer throughout the experiment. The researchers chose this microbe because it is slightly less sensitive to far-UVC light.

Even though microbes were still sprayed into the room, the lamps killed more than 98 percent of the airborne microbes in just five minutes.

According to the research team, the results were much better than other approaches to disinfecting indoor spaces with people present. The efficacy is typically measured in terms of "equivalent air changes per hour," and far-UVC lamps produced approximately 184 equivalent air changes per hour in this study. The norm for most other approaches is between five and twenty equivalent air changes per hour.

Far-UVC light from ceiling-mounted lamps could be a highly effective passive technology for reducing person-to-person transmission of airborne-mediated diseases like COVID and influenza indoors and reducing the risk of the next pandemic.

Brenner believes that deploying this technology in places where people socialize indoors, such as offices, clubs, and restaurants, has the potential to prevent the next pandemic effectively.

Despite this, the team stated that there is still work to be done to ensure that the radiation from Far-UVC lamps does not pose a risk.

Still, if the technology can be used safely and effectively, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we fight airborne infections and diseases.

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