There’s a third way to minimize COVID exposure besides masks and distancing. Let’s start using it

November 24, 2020, 5:00 PM UTC
Commentary-COVID-19-air cleaning
The main route for coronavirus transmission is through the air. Far-UVC 222 light can cleanse the air and keep us safe, writes James Guyette.
Adam Glanzman—Bloomberg/Getty Images

There is nothing normal about what some people are calling the “new normal.” Humans are gregarious. For millions of years we have eaten together, celebrated together, and played together. It’s time to get back to that “old normal.” And there are safe ways to go back there.

The main way SARS-CoV-2 spreads, in fact the way most coronaviruses spread, is through the air. An infected person coughs or sneezes and aerosolized droplets are inhaled by an otherwise healthy person. 

There are two primary methods for minimizing exposure to the virus recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): wearing a mask or face covering over your nose and mouth, and social distancing.

In addition to these two widely publicized methods is a third, fairly new, yet rarely mentioned method: cleansing the air. One effective way to cleanse the indoor air around us is with far-UVC light at a 222-nanometer wavelength. This short wavelength on the far end of the ultraviolet spectrum is not harmful to humans. 

Our company, Healthe Inc., is leveraging this very technology in the form of a suite of sanitization products that utilize both UVC and far-UVC 222 light to inactivate viruses (including SARS-CoV-2) and bacteria in the air and on surfaces. Our products adhere to standard regulatory and industry guidelines for recommended exposure limits. They include a far-UVC 222 walk-through sanitization portal and ceiling downlights, which can be found in use today in such iconic places as the Seattle Space Needle, the Miami Dolphins football facilities, and some Magnolia Bakery locations. As such, we benefit financially from the use of far-UVC 222 technology to combat the coronavirus.

Far-UVC 222’s longer wavelength brother, UVC 254, has been disinfecting the surfaces of operating rooms for decades. UVC 254 is very effective at killing drug-resistant bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, UVC 254 is not safe for humans. Studies have shown that it can, over time, cause skin cancer and cataracts.

What difference do 32 billionths of a meter make? Surprisingly a lot. At 222 nanometers, drug-resistant bacteria and viruses are destroyed just as effectively as at 254 nanometers. 

And here’s the best part: Far-UVC 222 is not harmful to humans. Far-UVC 222 cannot pass through the outer layer of our skin or the tear layer of our eye. A recent Columbia University study showed no evidence of harm to human tissue.

far uvc 222 light penetration
Far-UVC 222 light cannot penetrate human skin or the eye’s tear layer.
PRM Creative

According to a recent study by Hiroshima University, far-UVC 222 destroys SARS-CoV-2, which is approximately 120 nanometers in diameter. The outer dead layer of your skin is 100 times thicker than that. 

How can far-UVC 222 cleanse the air? Far-UVC 222 excimer lamps can constantly scrub the indoor air around us, allowing us to go back to concerts, sporting events, and everyday life. One way to clean the air is by installing far-UVC 222 lamps in overhead ceiling downlights or in cylinders standing on the floor of your home.

If we install these lamps everywhere, can we ditch masks? Absolutely not. Did we stop wearing seatbelts when airbags became ubiquitous? Far-UVC 222 is another weapon in the fight against this pandemic and all other viruses and bad bacteria. 

“What about the good bacteria?” you may wonder. Yes, it’s true that far-UVC 222 will kill that too. But that’s no different than washing your hands with hot water and soap. 

Think you are too small to change the world? Look what a single-cell virus did to us in just a few months. Far-UVC 222 is small too, yet it has the ability to make us all safer during the pandemic.

James Guyette is COO of Healthe Inc., which adapts NASA technology to engineer UV sanitization and LED circadian lighting solutions.

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