MIAMI (CBS) – We know the risk of COVID transmission is much less outside. Now researchers at Columbia University are trying out a new kind of ultraviolet light called far-UVC that could make indoor air as safe as outdoors.
As dental students practice on mannequins at the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University, a lamp is disinfecting the air. Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, said unlike the UV light currently used to sterilize hospital rooms and equipment when people are not around, the lamp uses a different wavelength that is not known to be harmful to people.
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“This far-UVC light really can’t penetrate into our skin or into eyes,” Dr. Brenner said.
Dr. Brenner co-authored new research showing far-UVC light took less than five minutes to kill 98% of indoor airborne microbes, which means it could possibly reduce the transmission of diseases such as flu and COVID.
“We know there are going to be new variants that haven’t reached us yet, and the nice thing about far-UVC is it should be effective against every type of virus,” he said.
The lamps can be installed in the ceiling and cost about $200 each. Dr. Brenner said we could one day see these in hospitals, schools, and on planes.
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“Where are we transmitting COVID? Where are we transmitting influenza? It’s almost entirely indoors because you have so much ventilation outdoors. I think what we have achieved with far-UVC is the equivalent of stepping outside,” Dr. Brenner said.
Dr. Steven Erde with the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University is excited the research is being tested at a dental clinic since many microbes in the mouth can get into the air.
“This is a great opportunity to decrease that load so that when the patients are here, the providers are safer and other patients in the same facility are safer,” he said.
A potential game changer that could possibly prevent the next pandemic.
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Scientists say another advantage to this UV technology is that viruses and bacteria cannot develop a resistance which can happen with vaccines and drugs.