The deeper we get into the COVID-19 pandemic, the more theories start to develop as to how to defeat the virus once and for all. The scientific community is working at a breakneck pace to test valid treatment and disinfecting options so the world can get back on track. However, there are a lot of misconceptions out there with potentially dangerous consequences for consumers.
As a lighting manufacturer, we've been getting a lot of questions about the use of UV lights to combat Coronavirus, and we feel it's important to set the record straight for the public's safety and awareness. Here are the top three questions we're seeing in regards to COVID-19 and UV lights.
Can I see COVID-19 with UV Light?
UV or blue light is often used to help identify areas of contamination that the naked eye misses. These light sources cause certain substances to fluoresce, calling out areas that need to be cleaned or decontaminated. However, while UV or blue light can help you find potentially contaminated areas, they cannot identify specific pathogens and viruses. For precise results, samples of the fluorescing area should be tested.
UV and blue light can be used in combination with different colored glasses/goggles (red, yellow, or orange) to enhance the fluorescence effect. Users should test various goggles with the light to find the best result. Ideally, you should use the light in dark conditions, on a dried substance, with the appropriate goggles.
Can I use UV light to clean and disinfect infected areas?
UV or blue light can be used in conjunction with proper disinfectants to properly sanitize an infected area. Do not rely on UV or blue light alone to disinfect. It’s recommended to view the area under UVA light, identify potential contaminants, clean the area manually, and repeat until the contamination is no longer visible.
Dr. William Rutala, a nationally recognized expert in disinfection and sterilization, said in a recent interview for Healthcare Hygiene Magazine, “The rationale for rigorous manual cleaning/disinfection before use of UV technology, for example, is that organic material can interfere with disinfection technologies. Thus, surfaces must be cleaned/disinfected prior to use of automated disinfection technology [UV lights and lamps].”
All cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles or high touch items like stretchers, rails, floors, walls, and work surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using an EPA registered hospital grade disinfectant in accordance with the product label.
See examples here of how a blue or UV light can help visualize the cleanliness of a contaminated area. UVA lights will not specify what is fluorescing, but they will identify what is a potentially harmful substance that needs cleaning.
Will UV light kill COVID-19?
Yes, but it is not advised. There are three main factors required to kill COVID-19 with a UV light; wavelength, intensity, and exposure time.
Research has shown that UV light can kill COVID-19 along with other pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. However, the wavelength needed to do so is in the 100 - 280nm range (also known as UVC light). While bactericidal and germicidal, these UVC lights are also carcinogenic and can damage the skin and eyes quickly.
A significant amount of intensity is required from the UVC light to have the desired effect. This intensity is currently only available from UV lamps. While more intensity gives the light more ‘virus-killing power’, it also increases collateral damage done to human tissue.
Many lights these days are LED-based, which don’t carry much light intensity. So to achieve the desired result of killing COVID-19, the contaminated area would have to be exposed to the proper UVC light for an extended period of time. Solutions suggesting you can just fly or move over an infected area with a UV light to kill a virus are exaggerated and most likely unfounded.
Most forensic light sources (including FoxFury's lights) use UVA, which is 320 - 400nm. These wavelengths require a long exposure to kill anything, which means they would be impractical for use in killing COVID-19.
It is the official recommendation of the World Health Organization to not use UV light or lamps to sterilize hands or other parts of the body. To quote Dan Arnold of UV Light Technology, “UVC is really nasty stuff – you shouldn't be exposed to it. It can take hours to get sunburn from UVB (280 - 320nm), but with UVC it takes seconds. If your eyes are exposed… you know that gritty feeling you get if you look at the sun? It’s like that times 10, just after a few seconds.”
FoxFury's line of forensic lighting tools are designed for use in the field as well as the lab. They are made with portability and durability in mind so users can identify evidence (or in this case, potentially infectious material) with speed and precision. Learn more about our lights, kits, and forensic accessories.
If you're looking to learn more about the use of alternative light sources in forensics and forensic photography, check out our Forensic Light & Photo Guide. This free resource will show you methods for finding and photographing forensic evidence with various tools and lighting techniques. Sign up and download the guide today!
Scout 470nm Blue Light
The Scout is ideal for up close and personal inspection. It's the smallest and cheapest of FoxFury's alternative light source options, and has a strong clip for access and convenience. Ideally users want to be within 2 ft of the inspected area. This light comes with a pair of Orange Goggles.
HammerHead 365nm UV Light
The HammerHead is another great tool for close-up inspections with more light intensity than the Scout, which allows you to see more and sweep the area faster. This light comes with a pair of Yellow Goggles and is also available in 380-395nm Dual UV, 395nm UV, 470nm Blue, and 495nm Blue models depending on your need.
Rook 365nm UV Light
The Rook is a handheld flashlight with more light intensity than the HammerHead for slightly more inspection power. This means you can see more from farther away. This light comes with a pair of Yellow Goggles and is available in 380-395nm Dual UV, 450-470nm Dual Blue, and 470nm Blue models depending on your need.