Ultraviolet light could effectively reduce COVID-19 transmission indoors

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In a new study, researchers support the use of ultraviolet light to reduce COVID-19 transmission indoors.

The research was conducted by a team at ICFO-Institut de Ciencies Fotoniques and elsewhere.

The COVID-19 outbreak is posing an extraordinary challenge that requires swift worldwide action for the massive deployment of affordable and ready-to-apply measures to drastically reduce its transmission probabilities in indoor spaces.

The goal is to eventually return to normal activities such as working at the office, going to school, or even attending entertainment events.

Previous studies show that virus transmission follows two main paths.

Firstly, the virus can transmit through the air in droplets exhaled by infected individuals and inhaled by healthy individuals.

Secondly, it can be deposited on surfaces from either exhalations or hand contact.

Currently, several measures are being adopted to help prevent the transmission of this disease.

The common ones refer to facial masks and other physical barriers that if properly used have proven to be highly effective but that however depend on the compliance of the population.

A long series of studies suggest that virus transmission in indoor spaces has a much higher transmission rate than outdoors.

Filters and chemicals have been presented as possible solutions to minimize this problem, but even though these are efficient solutions to reduce the concentration of contaminated particles and droplets through ventilation systems, their installation may be costly and time-consuming.

In addition, chemicals such as ozone are very effective for virus disinfection, but if misused they are harmful to humans.

In the study, the team surveyed the possible methods to prevent SARS-CoV-2 propagation in indoor spaces.

Following this survey, they advocate for one measure that they believe to be particularly efficient, easily deployable, and economically affordable: virus inactivation by ultraviolet light.

The study gives information on the currently available UV-C sources, such as fluorescent lamps, microcavity plasmas, and LEDs, emphasizing that, by irradiating this type of light inside the ventilation systems of buildings and in shared indoor spaces while not in use, it is possible to quickly and efficiently deactivate airborne and surface-deposited SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

They also explore costs and investments in deploying such technology and argue that a global capital investment of a few billion dollars in UV-C sources could protect of the order of ~109 indoor workers worldwide.

One author of the study is ICREA Prof. at ICFO Javier García de Abajo.

The study is published in ACS Nano.

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