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A new study has discovered a revolutionary way to inactivate more than 98% of the airborne bacteria in just five minutes. And all we have to do is turn on the lights. 

Well, ultraviolet light, that is.

According to a recent statement, the new study shows a “hands-off” approach using ultraviolet light, called far-UVC light, reduced transmission of indoor airborne pathogens by more than 98% in less than five minutes.

Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said, “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.”  

Dr. Brenner co-authored the study. 

He goes on to say, “Using this technology in locations where people gather together indoors could prevent the next potential pandemic.” 

The joint study by scientists at Columbia University and multiple universities in the U.K. suggests that far-UVC light installed in ceiling lamps can reduce the risk of the next pandemic by efficiently reducing indoor airborne transmission of infectious diseases known to cause major outbreaks, such as COVID-19 or influenza.

But the statement notes that far-UVC is a relatively new technology.

Although it’s been known for years that ultraviolet C light (UVC) has properties to destroy germs, its radiation can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and harm people’s eyes. That led to strict controls on its usage, mainly limited to sterilizing medical equipment.

Around ten years ago, scientists at Columbia University proposed that a different type of UVC light, called far-UVC light, could destroy germs as efficiently as conventional UVC light without the harmful side effects. The statement clarifies that the light’s shorter wavelength does not allow it to penetrate human skin or eye cells,. 

Studies over the past decade confirmed that far-UVC kills airborne bacteria and viruses without damaging living tissue as the germs are much smaller than human cells. 

But the studies up to this point were confided in experimental chambers that never mimicked the real-world setting.

Researchers tested the efficacy of far-UVC light in a chamber the size of a large indoor room with an equivalent ventilation rate as a typical home or office, which is approximately three air changes per hour.

They continuously sprayed a bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) until the concentration of the microbes stabilized, then turned on overhead far-UVC lamps.

They chose Staph instead of coronavirus because it is slightly less sensitive to far-UVC light so that the researchers could create a conservative model.

The study discovered that the light not only inactivated more than 98% of the airborne bacteria in only five minutes, but it was also able to keep the level of bacteria in the air low over time even though the microbes were continuously sprayed in the room.

“Far-UVC light is simple to install, it’s inexpensive, it doesn’t need people to change their behavior, and evidence from multiple studies suggests it may be a safe way to prevent the transmission of any virus, including the COVID virus and its variants, as well as influenza and also any potential future pandemic viruses,” Dr. Brenner said.

If this simple technology will allow us to be safer, healthier, and reduce the number of harsh chemical cleaners we need, we’re all for it!