Traditional disinfection methods have been used for decades. However, they don’t seem good enough, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise despite the rigorous cleaning and disinfection methods being used.
What we need right now are modern technologies that can help the world eliminate the virus more effectively and possibly prevent another pandemic to complement the current traditional disinfection methods. One, of which, is the application of UV light.
What Is UV Light?
Short for ultraviolet light, UV light is a kind of radiation. UV has less energy than gamma rays or X-rays but has more energy than visible light or radio waves. Natural sunlight emits UV light as well as man-made sources like tanning beds.
UV light uses ultraviolet technology to kill all bacteria and germs more quickly and is an excellent supplement for other disinfection methods. Since being discovered as a good disinfectant, UV Light implementation ranges from industrial, commercial, and, especially, in the medical sectors.
UV light has been used to kill viruses and bacteria and even the current coronavirus.
Types of UV Light: Which Can Kill Viruses?
There are several kinds of UV light and they’re classified according to the energy they have. These are:
- UVA Light
UVA light is what you’re most exposed to when under the sun. It contains the lowest amount of energy but is known to cause aging of skin cells and indirect damage to your cells’ DNA. It is also linked to long-term skin damage including wrinkles and is believed to play a role in skin cancer.
- UVB Light
Sitting in the middle of the UV light spectrum, UVB light has higher energy. Sunlight contains a small portion of UVB light, causing direct damage to the outermost skin layer and cell DNA. Too much exposure to UVB light causes sunburns and contributes to most skin cancer.
- UVC Light
Having the most energy, UVC light is mostly absorbed in the ozone layer of the Earth. This is why you don’t usually get exposed to this kind of light. Still, there are various human-made sources of UVC light.
Usually, a UV light for disinfection contains UVC light since it’s the most effective type in killing germs. It’s often used to disinfect air, liquids, and surfaces.
UVC light kills viruses and bacteria by damaging their molecules like proteins and nucleic acid. This process inactivates the germ which means it’s no longer capable of performing the processes it requires to survive.
UV Light and The Pandemic
Currently, UV light is being used to disinfect and kill the new coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2. Here’s what studies have discovered about UV light and the current pandemic so far.
- Disinfecting Surfaces
A study by the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) found that UVC light can reduce live coronaviruses on laboratory surfaces by 99.7% in just 30 seconds. They used a type of UVC light known as far-UVC light, which is between wavelengths of 222 and 207 nanometers. This only means that it is still powerful at damaging germs but less hazardous to your eyes and skin than other kinds of UVC light.
- Disinfecting Liquids
Another study by AJIC discovered that using UVC light can kill a large amount of the coronavirus in liquid cultures. It found that exposure to UVC light in less than 10 minutes can completely inactivate the virus.
- Disinfecting Air
A study published in the Journal Scientific Reports showed that using far-UVC light can kill two kinds of human coronaviruses (OC43 and 229E) in the air. Based on the results, far-UVC light can kill 99.9% of airborne coronavirus in at least 25 minutes.
How Is UV Light Currently Used To Kill Coronavirus?
Due to its efficiency in deactivating coronaviruses without using chemicals, UV light is an appealing choice for disinfection. Special lamps emitting UVC light are usually used for such purposes.
Currently, the use of UV light for disinfection is used in healthcare settings to disinfect things like:
- Operating room
- Medical equipment
- Personal Protective Equipment or PPEs
Advancements in UV Light Application To Prevent Another Pandemic
The current COVID-19 pandemic is still devastating the world and is likely not the last health crisis that mankind will go through. Thus, researchers are finding new ways for UV light application to combat a wide variety of bacteria and viruses that can be problematic in the future.
One research shows that combining UV light with certain materials which consist of polymers and molecules known as oligomers almost completely kills the coronavirus.
Disinfectants such as alcohol and bleach are effective against viruses. However, since they’re corrosive and volatile, it limits the period of sterilization. Now, when oligomer and polymer materials are activated with UV light, you get a coating that’s shown to be highly effective and fast-acting to reduce the concentration of the virus by 5 orders of magnitude.
- Long-Lasting and Safe
Unlike traditional disinfectant products, this material is also shown not to wash away with water while also not leaving any toxic residues due to the photodegradation process.
- Wide Range of Application
This science can easily be applied to commercial, consumer, and healthcare products like clothing, wipes, masks, paints, and almost any surface, making it a game-changer in businesses like airlines, gyms, groceries, and schools.
Its application may not only eliminate coronavirus but can also prevent infections caused by bacteria and viruses like seasonal flu and common cold that plague millions of people yearly.
UV light is indeed more powerful than conventional cleaning and disinfection methods. It’s already proven effective at killing the current coronavirus and with new innovations for its use being studied, it can be a worthy defense of humanity when the next pandemic arrives.