July 01, 2023
We are officially on the 55th day (and still counting) since the government enacted the Shelter-In-Place order. It took the world by surprise. In this age of Artificial Intelligence and technological advancement, there seems to be nothing that we cannot solve and fix. However, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed how vulnerable we all still are. A strain of a virus, known to exist for over 55 million years is causing havoc and claiming millions of innocent lives around the globe.
Many of us question the nature of this novel corona virus. Did it originate from a laboratory in Wuhan and was it man made? However, with its extensive damage due to its rapid transmission from one individual to the next, that question becomes insignificant. Honestly, we do not have the time to ponder and find the real answers. Maybe in time, we will know the truth, but for now we have to act fast and find effective ways to protect ourselves and minimize the risks of catching the ‘rona.
Self-quarantine, regular handwashing, disinfection. These phrases have become household names that we fully embrace much like how we would welcome a new sibling or a newborn, during this period of isolation. These practices are our friends, measures that help us contain the spread of COVID-19. But since the demand for hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohols, and other disinfectants have increased, we have, in a short amount of time, reached a shortage of these valuable resources. In addition, finding the right cure and inventing a vaccine are taking longer than expected in this day and age of technology. So, the next question becomes: “What other options do we have?”
In our quest to find other alternatives, we did our research on practical use of ultraviolet radiation and how we can benefit from it in this time of need.
UV Radiation is a naturally occurring disinfectant present in sunlight. It reaches the Earth’s atmosphere in different wavelengths ranging from 10 to 400 nanometers. This unit of length or wavelength is shorter than that of visible light. There are 3 different types of UV rays.
UVA light is known for its long-wave light and accounts for 95% of the UV radiation that penetrates the Earth. This type is responsible for causing premature aging of the skin such as wrinkles, sun spots, skin cancer, and other types of skin damage.
UVB has a shorter wavelength than UVA. It is known to be the chief cause of sunburn. Its intensity varies by season, location and time of day. This type causes damage to the skin’s uppermost layers, destroys the DNA, and is also strongly linked to skin cancer.
The last type is UVC. It has the shortest UV rays out of the three. It never reaches the Earth because the ozone layer absorbs it. This UV type is artificially made from mercury lamps and welding torches. UV lamps are known to cause eye damage and skin irritation. It is for these reasons why it should not be used to disinfect the skin and other body surfaces.
How does UV light work against microbes?
The ultraviolet light of choice is UV-C. It’s 260-285 nm wavelength is capable of purifying air, water, and inactivating microbes. This technology is widely used in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and by food manufacturers for its germicidal effects. UVC kills microbes by causing damage to their DNA and destroying the cell’s ability to reproduce. While studies have shown that UVC light has been effective in deactivating viruses such as SARS and MERS, should we expect it to work on the coronavirus?
“UV light shows a lot of promise: SSLEEC member company Seoul Semiconductor in early April reported a “99.9% sterilization of coronavirus (COVID-19) in 30 seconds” with their UV LED products. Their technology currently is being adopted for automotive use, in UV LED lamps that sterilize the interior of unoccupied vehicles.” (Sonia Fernandez)
In Shanghai, the UV light technology has made its way in the disinfection process of their bus transportation system. It only takes 5-7 minutes to clean each bus and kills more than 99.9% of viruses found in its interior and exterior surfaces. Even banks have turned to the UV cleaning system to disinfect money and bank notes, sterilize elevators and train stations.
Here in the United States, NY city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will start using UV lamps inside subway cars and buses at certain train yards and bus depots by May 11.
As a Do-It-Yourself project, we came up with our own UV sanitizer box that will come in handy for disinfecting fomites. Fomites, in layman’s term refer to objects or materials which are likely to carry infection. Some examples are clothes, utensils, door handles, phones, watches, etc.
UV lamps can be purchased online but buy with caution, so you don’t end up spending your money on fake UVs. It would take about 10 seconds to disinfect an object that is placed 6 inches away from the UVC light. So, the farther the object is, the longer exposure time it will need to kill the germs. We also covered the inside of the plastic container with aluminum because foils are great reflective media to increase surface area and reach the nooks and crannies in-between objects. The light has a life of approximately 10,000 hours. Wiping down the bulb with a clean cloth and alcohol will keep the glass clear so the light can easily pass through it.
If you decide to do this project, please make sure to do your homework. There are certain things that you need to avoid such as getting your skin or any body surface exposed to the light. As mentioned earlier, doing this will cause sunburn and skin irritation. You should also refrain from looking straight at the light in order to avoid eye damage.
All in all, the project is not that complicated to make. The materials are affordable, and you get to have fun creating your very own sanitizer box. To top it off, you feel at ease touching and using your household items because they are cleaner and safer to use. The sanitizer box, however, does not take the place of handwashing and hand sanitizing. It serves as an additional measure to use with the most practical and easiest way of infection control: regular handwashing and hand sanitizing.
There’s so much to learn from this pandemic and we are hopeful that everyone of us will come out stronger at the end. Although the state of the future remains unknown, let us not allow fear to take over us. Focusing our energy on how we can make ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually stronger will leave us better equipped so we can all come out victorious in our fight against this deadly virus. I look forward to the time when we can all look back to this part of history and say to ourselves that we made it through and survived.
Stay safe. Be well. Best of health to everyone!