Coming up with a quick and easy way to disinfect not only yourself, but items that you come into contact with has been a conundrum scientists around the world have been trying to solve ever since the coronavirus was first labelled as a global pandemic.
Now, it seems as though scientists might have come up with a solution to this problem thanks to a specific kind of ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet radiation can be grouped into three different classifications based on their wavelengths, those being UVA [ultraviolet A], UVB [ultraviolet B] and [ultraviolet C] UVC.
In terms of which UV is best suited to use as a disinfectant, UVC has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, meaning it can act as a disinfectant given the right circumstances.
Indermeet Kohli, a physicist who studies photomedicine in dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, explained to Live Science, “UVC at a specific wavelength, 254 nanometers, has been successfully used to inactivate H1N1 influenza and other coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory virus (SARS-CoV) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) ”
UVC at a wavelength of 254 nanometers works as an effective disinfectant because at this wavelength it causes lesions in RNA and DNA. This means enough exposure to UVC 254 can damage the viruses RNA and DNA to the point where they can’t replicate, effectively killing or inactivating a microorganism or virus, according to Live Science.
However, the incorrect usage of UVC 254 can be extremely dangerous to the human skin and eyes, according to Kohli. She cautioned that UVC disinfection technologies should only be used in medical facilities and evaluated for safety and efficacy by teams with expertise in photomedicine and photobiology.
“UVC does kill the virus, period, but the issue is you have to get enough doses. Particularly, for N95 masks, which are porous, it takes a pretty big dose of UVC-254 nm to eliminate SARS-CoV-2. This kind of accuracy isn’t possible with at-home devices.” Dr. Jacob Scott, a research physician in the Department of Translational Hematology and Oncology Research at Cleveland Clinic told Live Science.
Both Dr Scott and Kohli are now working to make reliable and accurate UVC disinfection of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and N95 respirators, more efficient.