Can Ultraviolet Disinfectants Save The World Before A Vaccine?:
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down.
And we’re all looking for some time out in the future when we can escape purgatory and just get back to “normal”.
To survive until then we all wear our masks, some of us poorly, and also try to socially-distance as best we can, too.
One of the other things we do to kill the bug is to clean both hands and surfaces,
But a crafty-team at Columbia found out we might be able to do a lot more than that until the vaccine arrives…
The Short Answer:
- The coronavirus pandemic has forced lots of businesses to close temporarily.
- Health concerns over infection-rates keep them closed or at severely-reduced capacity.
- Any economy is likely to have more small businesses than large ones.
- Non-technical, in-person small businesses are less able to ride out bad economies.
- Infectious disease experts have known UV light can disinfect surfaces.
- There is more than one type of UV light.
- A Columbia team found that UV light can also disinfect particles in the air.
- They used a special type of light called Far UV-C.
- This type of light is safe for people and does not hurt skin or eyes.
- It can kill 90% of airborne coronavirus in 8 minutes at a distance of 8 5/8 inches.
- There is a possibility that this light can help disinfect surfaces and breathing-air.
- This fact may help indoor-businesses get a little closer to normal before the coronavirus vaccine arrives.
- How well it works and what applications it can be used for will depend on further testing.
Read on to find out the details…
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So a few of the risk-factors we learned about in the social-activity hazard post were:
1) Enclosed Airspaces
2) Concentration of People
3) Number of People
4) High-Touch Surfaces that are hard to keep clean
When you multiply these factors like Dr. Saskia Popescu did,
You can see why so many different indoor businesses like gyms and restaurants remain closed.
They’re really high-risk.
And unfortunately, that is terrible news for the world economy,
Especially for small businesses and independent Mom & Pop restaurants.
But ever since the era of Superbugs like MRSA, people in the hospital business have become familiar with one thing,
Sanitizing the hell out of all the things.
And maybe there is some way that mindset can help the rest of us.
Because although some methods of cleaning only seem to mutate superbugs into something stronger,
There are a few that kill them dead with no microbial retort.
One of them is antiseptic surfaces that disrupt the outer shell of viruses,
Like door-handles made out of special materials.
But another represents our chief nemesis at the beach during summertime:
UV Light !
And that’s where we pick up our research study.
You see, our team of clever doctors at Columbia realized one thing:
Hospitals can clean a lot of surfaces using powerful UV lights to get rid of superbugs.
And in some select ways, this method is even more effective than the work that cleaning crews do with mops, buckets, and sprayers.
But here’s the problem they ran into: UV Light applied to people will cook your skin and destroy your eyesight.
The other problem they ran into was that coronavirus is usually most concurrent with the risk factors from the social activity post.
Most-specifically: Presence of people.
So how do you solve the virus problem without also exterminating the people at the same time?
It turns out !SCIENCE! has an answer to that…
Strangely enough, just like the many different types of Elemental Isotopes on the periodic table,
Such as Carbon-14, Uranium-235, or Plutonium-238,
There is actually more than one version of Ultra-Violet Light.
And not just the ones you read about on a sunscreen bottle.
There is a very special 4th type that you probably didn’t know about, and it’s called “Far UV-C“.
Because according to Dr. David Brenner’s team, it is the one and only type of UV light that is safe to use around people,
Who are not currently looking for a really serious tan.
And most-importantly, just like the one used in futuristic robo-cleaners in hospitals,
It also can kill lots of microbes and viruses.
Including, according to their recent studies, The Flu virus, and also [drumroll please]:
–Even while it’s still in the air!
So what the Columbia team did was to take a Far UV-C lamp, and spritz 2 different versions of COVID in front of it into the air.
And the UV light killed the viruses.
The percentages are extremely-encouraging, especially for anyone who operates an indoor-business or enjoys breathing.
But the time figures are a little bit more sobering, so let’s be clear about them.
They are as follows for the laboratory test-distance, and the allowable wattage under current regulations:
1) 90% of coronavirus is killed in 8 minutes
2) 95% is killed in 11 minutes
3) 99% is killed in 16 minutes
4) 99.9% is killed by about the 25 minute mark
Those are all pretty great stats but now here’s what we don’t know, and some of the mitigating-factors.
Researchers are still not sure how fast someone can get infected with coronavirus.
The standard social-distance is still 6 feet, and an infectious-droplet can travel that far very quickly; even just from talking.
More-importantly, all of the tests by Columbia were done with the UV-lamp at a distance of 8 5/8 inches.
So how effective is the Far UV-C light when the lamp or bulb is several Feet away in something like an overhead fixture?
And if it takes 1 only droplet to infect somebody in let’s say 5 seconds,
How much coronavirus can the special UV light kill in that time?
Using the first figure of 90% as a guide, it would lead you to believe about 11.25% of COVID-19 could be killed by the lamp in 1 Minute.
Or about 0.20% in 1 Second.
So then does this mean Far UV-C can only be used for sanitizing large public spaces after events?
But it can’t make them perfectly-safe for all activities during the exact time they occur?
Or, maybe if businesses with enclosed air-spaces enforce 6-Foot social-distancing and use both overhead-lamps,
And also floor or table lamps in-between customer-stations, perhaps they can reopen at greater than 50% capacity?
It looks promising, but the real key would be for Columbia’s scientists to run a possible real-world scenario,
To test infectivity in a business-setting like a restaurant.
Because until then we won’t know, and all multiple-factor businesses would still be considered too dangerous.
For example unless they space people out, bars would still seem too risky to reopen. Proximity, Numbers, No Masks, Lots of Talking, and Lax Standards.
But who knows, maybe 1990s-style “Black Light Parties” might actually come back into vogue?
Either way, the very least Far UV-C light might do is to return some sliver of normalcy to a lot more businesses out there, and make the ones that run currently A Lot safer; let’s hope so.