Study by Columbia University researchers shows far-UVC light can prove beneficial in killing coronavirus present in air
The far-UVC light does not penetrate the layers of the eye or the outer skin and is therefore considered safe for the human body.
Cases of COVID-19 infection are rapidly increasing in different parts of the world. So far, more than nine million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
In order to prevent the spread of the disease, people are being asked to wash their hands with soap and water, wear masks and maintain a distance of at least two metres from one another. However, there has been some debate about the ability of this virus to stay in the environment for a reasonable amount of time - this would increase the risk of getting the infection even after following all the precautionary measures. To tackle this situation, scientists have been using far-UVC light as it has shown promising results in eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the surroundings.
Far-UVC light against SARS-CoV-2
The conventional ultraviolet light (UV light) with a wavelength of 254 nanometres (nm) is considered to be germicidal and is used to disinfect empty spaces such as unoccupied hospital rooms. Direct human exposure to these UV lights can be harmful. In order to make this light safe and effective for the human body, the researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center investigated far-UVC light with a wavelength of 222 nm. Since the far-UVC light has already been reported safe for the human body and effective in killing airborne influenza viruses, it was tested against coronavirus now.
In the study published in the journal Nature on 24 June 2020, the scientists used a dynamic aerosol irradiation chamber where they created, exposed, and collected the aerosol samples. With the use of a high-output extended aerosol respiratory therapy nebuliser, the scientists formed aerosols of two common coronaviruses, beta HCoV-OC43 and alpha HCoV-229E. These infected aerosols then travelled through the air in front of a far-UVC lamp. After passing through the far-UVC light, the researchers collected the remaining aerosols for further testing.
Results of the study
On testing the remaining aerosol samples, the scientists found that even on getting low exposure to the far-UVC light, 99.9 percent of the aerosols got inactivated. The researchers concluded that on continuous exposure to the far-UVC light, we will be able to kill 90% of the airborne viruses in about 8 minutes, 95 percent in about 11 minutes, 99 percent in about 16 minutes, and 99.9% in about 25 minutes.
Another fact about this far-UVC light is that it does not penetrate the layers of the eye or the outer skin and is therefore considered safe for the human body.
Use of far-UVC light for sanitisation tunnel in India
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur along with the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO) revealed their innovative techno advanced disinfectant tunnel in the month of May 2020. The tunnel had two chambers with three different levels of disinfection and was made to provide sanitisation in the areas where there would be a high flow of people like airports, bus stations and schools.
The first chamber consists of a spray of ionized liquid disinfectant which would firmly distribute on the skin of the person. In the second chamber, the person is first exposed to a hot air blast of 70-degree centigrade to make sure that any bacteria that survived the disinfectant would be killed through the heat. Then the person is exposed to far UVC light with a wavelength ranging from 207 to 222 nm which would kill the remaining viral load while keeping the skin and eyes safe.
For more information, read our article on COVID-19: What is droplet transmission?.
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