Let Us Use Light

Anthony Freda portrait

Let Us Use Light.

We are all under house arrest. Our financial and job securities are in jeopardy. Our constitutional rights have been stripped. Retirement plans? Forget them for now.

The models made to justify the draconian response have been proven to be inaccurate. Crime is up in some areas, like New York, since the lock-down, as are suicide rates and domestic abuse.

And, the full extent of the damage inflicted on the people by our government’s reaction is not yet known. Many experts predict a surge in homelessness and drug abuse.

Dark statistics, indeed. Time for some light to enter the room.  Exciting and potentially game-changing technology is Far-UV light. UV light is known to kill viruses, but it is harmful to humans and other mammals.

Far-UVC Light can be used to disinfect public spaces, including hospitals and mass transit areas without harming humans. According to a study by “Nature”:

“Far-UVC light (207–222 nm) efficiently inactivates bacteria without harm to exposed mammalian skin. This is because, due to its strong absorbance in biological materials, far-UVC light cannot penetrate even the outer (non-living) layers of human skin or eye; however, because bacteria and viruses are of a micrometer or smaller dimensions, far-UVC can penetrate and inactivate them. We show for the first time that far-UVC efficiently inactivates airborne aerosolized viruses, with a very low dose of 2 mg/cm2 of 222-nm light inactivating >95% of aerosolized H1N1 influenza virus. Continuous very low dose-rate far-UVC light in indoor public locations is a promising, safe and inexpensive tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases.”

Other countries, such as South Korea and Sweden, are using more effective tactics to fight the outbreak. We need smarter solutions.

One idea would be to quarantine those at greatest risk and start to expand the categories of businesses deemed “essential,” so at least a portion of the economy can get back on track, potentially staving off economic collapse. Phase in the workforce. Enact sanitary protocols such as crowd control, wearing masks and gloves, plexiglass barriers and routine cleaning.  People should make a habit of cleaning all their electronics and door handle’s daily.

South Korean educator, Edward Lee, credits large scale mask-wearing for their relative success at dealing with the crisis. He shared his thoughts:

“As far as I know there were no lock-downs in Korea nor bans from travelers abroad. The government has its reasons and not all countries need to emulate what works here. The US is much bigger and has more people … culturally they’re not used to masks like in Korea or Japan … but, in a large group setting, I recommend it. So, they’re fining people who are working in the U.S.? How do people survive?”

Sweden’s approach focuses on precautions and isolating only the most vulnerable, rather than imposing a full lock-down. While gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and high schools and universities are closed, Sweden’s borders are open, as well as its preschools, grade schools, bars, restaurants, parks, and stores.

But, let’s go back into the light. The Nature study shows that far-UVC lamps kill even airborne viruses without damaging human tissue, and so walking through public spaces or entering a hospital while passing through a UV decontamination chamber could be a commonplace safety measure installed in the near future.

According to Mercola.com: It may be that traditional UV (ultraviolet) light will also help dampen this pandemic. UV light is currently used in medical settings, wastewater treatment plants and food processing. Now, as COVID-19 grows, there is increased demand from hospitals and medical facilities for conventional UV lights and variations on such lamps.

[S]tartups that disinfect items with UV light are … seeing a boost in sales since the outbreak — and are hustling to keep up with demand as a result. PhoneSoap, a company that makes devices to clean phones and other items with UV light, has seen 1,000 percent growth year over year in the past week …

In mid-January, PhoneSoap executives began to notice an uptick in interest from overseas on both their website and Amazon. But the surge in sales really came after United States government officials and the Centers for Disease Control started speaking out more about the outbreak and threat to the U.S.”

Other startups besides PhoneSoap are also seeing a surge in orders for disinfecting UV products.

“CleanSlate UV, which is based in Toronto and has roughly $2 million in funding, makes devices that sanitize items with UV light. In hospitals, staff usually use CleanSlate UV for items like stethoscopes, badges, and phones, and visitors often use it for their phones.”

While both PhoneSoap and CleanSlate UV acknowledge that the effectiveness of UV light on COVID-19 has yet to be proven, Taylor Mann, CEO of CleanSlate UV, says:

“What we can say is UV light has been proven to be effective against previous strains of coronavirus … We just don’t know how effective it is against this specific strain.”

CleanSlate UV is currently serving more than 80 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada and hospitals in Australia, Hong Kong, and Europe.

The use of low-level far-UVC lighting fixtures could provide the desired antiviral benefits without the accompanying human health concerns of a conventional germicidal lamp UVGI. Priced at less than $1,000 per lamp, which would decrease if the lamps entered mass production, far-UVC lights are an inexpensive weapon we should add to our arsenal in the war on viruses.

Based in Long Island NY, Freda works as an editorial illustrator, visual political activist and as part of the adjunct faculty of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. In addition to many mainstream clients, such as Time, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and The New York Times, he also contributes to many alternative news websites and publications, such as Activist Post, Washington’s Blog, and The Trends Journal. 

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