A Bright Light in the Fight Against Airborne Diseases
As researchers race against time to combat the current pandemic, a transformative innovation shines bright, both literally and figuratively. The latest findings on far-UVC light may revolutionize our approach to purifying indoor air, ensuring spaces that were once considered hazardous are rendered as safe as the great outdoors.
A Paradigm Shift in Air Quality
In a recent collaborative study by scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and their counterparts in the U.K., far-UVC light demonstrated astonishing efficacy. This new ultraviolet light variant, when turned on, diminished indoor airborne microbes by over 98% in under five minutes. Even with a constant influx of microbes into the room, these levels remained exceptionally low.
David Brenner, PhD, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University and a co-author of the study, aptly summarized its implications, stating, “Far-UVC rapidly reduces the amount of active microbes in the indoor air to almost zero, making indoor air essentially as safe as outdoor air.”
Shedding New Light on Far-UVC
For decades, the scientific community acknowledged UVC light’s potency in eradicating microbes. However, the direct application of conventional germicidal UVC in occupied spaces was infeasible due to its potential harm to skin and eyes. Enter far-UVC light, Columbia University’s proposed solution from about ten years ago. This variant, characterized by a shorter wavelength than its germicidal counterpart, doesn’t infiltrate skin or eye cells, sidestepping the safety concerns.
Further solidifying its safety credentials, David Brenner’s lab at Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research conducted studies that revealed far-UVC light caused no damage in a 3D model of human skin. Additionally, hairless mice subjected to far-UVC light for extended periods displayed no signs of skin damage, highlighting its potential for safe indoor use.
The Real-World Efficacy of Far-UVC
While previous research primarily utilized small experimental chambers to assess far-UVC’s effectiveness, this study went a step further, emulating real-world conditions. Collaborating with institutions such as the University of St. Andrews, University of Dundee, and University of Leeds, the team tested far-UVC in a room-sized chamber, mimicking a standard home or office’s ventilation.
The results were nothing short of revolutionary. The lamps neutralized over 98% of airborne microbes within five minutes, maintaining low levels throughout the test. Remarkably, the far-UVC lamps facilitated an equivalent of 184 air exchanges per hour, dwarfing the 5 to 20 typically achieved through other disinfection methods.
Future-Proofing Indoor Spaces
With its proven capability to neutralize the COVID virus, its variants, and other pathogens, far-UVC light stands out as a dynamic tool for mitigating indoor disease transmission. David Brenner adds, “It will be equally good at inactivating all future COVID variants, as well as new infectious viruses that have yet to emerge.”
Moreover, due to ultraviolet light’s mechanism in eradicating microbes, the risk of pathogens developing resistance, as seen with some vaccines and treatments, is nullified.
As societies globally prioritize health and well-being, tools that ensure safety, especially in shared indoor spaces, become invaluable. Far-UVC light, with its astounding efficacy and safety, represents hope, ushering in a new era of indoor air quality that could be pivotal in thwarting future pandemics.
The full study, “Far-UVC (222 nm) efficiently inactivates an airborne pathogen in a room-sized chamber,” was published in Scientific Reports on March 23. Readers interested in the detailed research can access the journal for a comprehensive review. Far-UVC (222 nm) efficiently inactivates an airborne pathogen in a room-sized chamber