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Can You Kill The Novel Coronavirus With UV Light?

12 April 2020
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Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizers have been the world’s most sought-after product. But, as confirmed cases continue to rise across the globe, sanitizers are now in limited supply, and many are turning their attention to ultraviolet (UV) light.

There is a lot of misinformation about UV light available, and if used irresponsibly, it can be very dangerous for our health as it can cause blindness and skin burns. So, before you go out and buy one, make sure you are informed first.

Let’s learn more about UV light and whether it can kill the coronavirus.

The ABCs of UV light

There are three types of UV light based on its wavelength and characteristics: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVA Light

UVA light has the longest wavelength. It accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. While UVA light is commonly used in commercial and industrial applications due to its fluorescent effect, it can penetrate deep into human skin. In fact, scientists state that it is responsible for 80% of skin aging.

UVB Light

This band consists of an intermediate wavelength UV radiation. These rays can penetrate the upper layers of the dermis and damage skin DNA, leading to sunburn and even skin cancer.  The effects of both UVA and UVB light on the skin are well known. This is why many skincare products offer UVA and UVB protection.

UVC Light

This short-wave spectrum is the most harmful band. Remember, the shorter the wavelength, the more harmful the radiation. Luckily for humans, the Earth’s ozone layer blocks this band before it reaches our sensitive skin.

However, in the 1800s, scientists discovered that UVC light is highly effective at destroying microorganism’s ability to reproduce, and it can kill up to 99.99% of all bacteria and viruses.

Since the discovery, UVC light has become an important method of sterilization. In controlled amounts, it’s currently being used in the treatment of drinking water, the production of pharmaceutical products, as well as in hospitals, factories, and offices.

Now that we’ve got an overview of each band, let’s address the elephant in the room…

Can UV Light Kill Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Looking at previous coronaviruses such as the SARS and MERS, studies have shown that UVC light is successful in deactivating them. Under controlled laboratory conditions, UVC light of 254nm-wavelength and heat treatment of at least 65 degrees Celcius (149 degrees Fahrenheit) successfully deactivated the viruses.

Yet, the COVID-19 is a new breed with a different structure from the previous viruses. So, thus far, testing has been very limited, and there is no scientific evidence to prove that UV light can kill the coronavirus.

However, scientists and medical professionals agree that UVC light kills pretty much anything from viruses and bacteria to fungi. It damages their DNA or RNA code as well as triggers lethal mutations that prevent them from adequately reproducing. So, there is no reason for it to not be ineffective against the novel coronavirus. All we lack is scientific evidence to verify that.

Keep in mind that not all UVC light devices will effectively kill the coronavirus. Most low-cost UV cleansers are not powerful enough to do that.

However, strong UVC light on humans can be disastrous; so, you should never point it at yourself, another human being, or animal. Scientists also don’t know the effects of repeated exposure of UVC light on the materials of masks and gowns.

How About UVA and UVB Light?

Meanwhile, UVA and UVB light rays have virtually no effect on bacteria and viruses. They will, on the contrary, harm your skin and potentially lead to skin cancer and/or eye cataract.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms this theory and even dismisses the myth that exposure to the sun or temperatures above 25 degrees Celcius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) can prevent COVID-19. As mentioned above, UVC light never reaches the surface of the Earth because the atmosphere absorbs it. As a result, there is no way for it t have any effect on coronavirus.

So, you should not expose yourself to the UVA and UVB light from the sun, hoping that it will inactivate the coronavirus. It will do more damage than good.

At the moment, the best way to protect yourself is to follow the simple guidelines of self-isolation and by making sure that you’re washing your hands frequently and not touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. You can use UV light to sterilize devices such as your phone; however, you should never use it on your skin or any other areas of your body.

Check out the upcoming technology we have addressing this issue.



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