New Type of Ultraviolet Light Makes Indoor Air as Safe as Outdoors

A new type of ultraviolet light that may be safe for people took less than five minutes to reduce the level of indoor airborne microbes by more than 98%, a joint study by scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and in the U.K. has found. Even as microbes continued to be sprayed into the room, the level remained very low as long as the lights were on.

The study suggests that far-UVC light from lamps installed in the ceiling could be a highly effective passive technology for reducing person-to-person transmission of airborne-mediated diseases such as COVID and influenza indoors, and lowering the risk of the next pandemic.

“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,” says David Brenner, PhD, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and co-author of the study. “Using this technology in locations where people gather together indoors could prevent the next potential pandemic.”

The study was published March 23 in the journal Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.

“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,” Brenner says.

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