A range of UVC products that have been researched and developed by physicists at several top universities around the world, including Columbia University, over the past several years, has landed in South Africa, thanks to local distributor, FAR UVC AFRICA, and could very well be the solution we need to turn the tide of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While governments, scientists and health organisations all over the globe race to develop and roll out a Covid-19 vaccine to the entire world, the global economy is at the mercy of the restrictions and social distancing protocols that have been widely mandated in an attempt at mitigating the spread of the virus.
And while these measures are generally accepted as being necessary, it is equally necessary for life to return to a much higher level of productivity, so it may come as a welcome surprise to many to learn that an effective solution for dealing with this crisis already exists, and it’s been around us this whole time.
What’s the deal?
Ultra-violet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) technology has been known for decades – over a century, in fact – to be an effective means of disinfection, as the ultraviolet (UV-C) light kills or inactivates airborne microorganisms by damaging or destroying their DNA.
However, this method of decontamination is unsafe for use in occupied spaces because it has carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and caterogenic (cataract-causing) effects in humans. That’s because it is generally applied at a wavelength of 254nm (nanometres), which has the capacity to penetrate human skin and eyes.
Getting on the right wavelength
The light spectrum consists of two primary parts – the UV (Ultra-Violet) spectrum, and the visible light spectrum (the light that reflects off the surfaces all around us and that allows us to see colours, etc.)
UV light falls outside of the spectrum of visibility for humans because it has wavelengths of between 100 and 400 nanometres, which the eye cannot detect. The “ultra” part of the ultra-violet descriptor is the part that gives away how potent it is, and this is the stuff that we’re trying to avoid by wearing sunscreen. It’s literally a form of radiation which, like x-ray or gamma radiation, has the capacity to penetrate biological matter and disrupt its DNA. That’s why it works as a disinfectant against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
Far-UVC is safe for near use
Dr David Brenner, PhD, Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, has been sharing his research on the benefits and safety of far-UVC in combating superbugs and coronaviruses for several years, now, and the world is beginning to notice.
Further studies conducted by Dr Brenner and his team at Columbia, an international team of physicists at Pennsylvania State University, and the Universities of Minnesota and Tokyo, respectively, have adapted the traditional UVGI technology currently in use to develop a product that is safe for use in occupied spaces.
Into the light
The difference between far-UVC and traditional UVGI disinfectant solution is that far-UVC sanitation products emit at a wavelength that, while still effective against airborne pathogens, does not have the capacity to penetrate the outer layer of human skin or eyes (known as the tear layer).
Older UVGI systems transmit at 254nm, far-UVC transmits at 222nm, which offers a number of benefits:
- It can be used in occupied spaces without causing harm to humans or animals.
- It can be used continually, meaning that it is always working to kill or deactivate any airborne bugs that enter the space.
- It works on both airborne particles and those that land on various surfaces, significantly lowering exposure not only from proximity to other people but also the objects and surfaces that they touch.
- It can be widely applied to safeguard populated spaces such as schools, offices, public transport systems, gyms, and shopping centres.
- It is immediately available and a highly cost-effective solution for safeguarding densely populated areas and allowing many to resume or continue their operations.
- It has been widely proven through numerous studies to be highly effective not only against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, but against all known coronavirus strains as well as many other viruses and bugs.
Probably the most important benefit of all, in the South African context, is the fact that this technology is locally accessible, inspiring hope for a speedier recovery for our economy and safer environments for the public in general.