The possibility of installing ultraviolet light to kill airborne Coronaviruses may be appealing but Nigerian virology professor, Oyewale Tomori, believes it is not practicable to implement outside a controlled space.
Researchers at Columbia University said in a report that a less harmful type of ultraviolet light called Far-UVC was effective in destroying the virus plaguing the world.
The approach of the scientists at the American university was to install ceiling fixtures releasing Far-UVC in public spaces that killed-off microbes.
Far-UVC manufacturers in the USA are already sold on the potential, they have started ramping up production, the lead researcher in the study David Brenner told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We don’t see far-UVC light as an alternative to masks and social distancing, we see it as a new extra weapon that we can use in the battle against COVID-19,” Brenner said. Tomori is unsure as to how that weapon will be deployed, however.
“UV light destroys virtually every virus that is within the range of action of the UV light,” he said, confirming the findings of the study.
“Experimentally we do that in the lab.”
According to him, there is a depth beyond which UV light cannot penetrate.
Hanging the system on a ceiling or a wall will deal with the virus in the range of penetration while virus particles outside the range are swimming untouched.
“In a lab, you take a little bit of the virus solution, usually a thin film in a petri dish, and expose it to UV rays and the virus would be destroyed, if it is within the range of UV light penetration,” he said, adding that, “The space within a certain distance from the far-UVC is the only place that will be clean.”
This limitation makes deploying Far-UVC ineffective in Prof Tomori’s view.
“How are you going to UV the entire room or your parlour? How much UV light are you going to put in your study? “Surfaces far removed from the source of UV light are unaffected and the virus will not be killed,” he said.
The Reuters report was silent on how many kilowatts of UVC light would be needed in a space for the right intensity that is strong enough to keep a space void of viruses.
Although not known to virologists, Brenner’s finding that “a very low exposure to Far-UVC light killed well over 99.9% of the exposed virus,” gives hope to offices considering recalling their workers from their homes, event managers trying to convince clients that their halls are available for parties and indoor sporting activities in Nigeria, where officials are apprehensive about rescheduling cancelled tournaments anytime soon.