Disinfectant is in high demand these days. With people clamoring for hand sanitizers and aerosol sprays in grocery stores, one might be wondering; what is the ultimate form of disinfectant?
Priorities have certainly changed over the past few weeks, and maintaining health, distance, and sterilization have risen to the top of everyone's list. Most are doing their part to stay home as much as possible, and many states are requiring residents to wear face masks while shopping for essentials. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most N95 face masks used by health care workers are designed for single-use, to be worn and then thrown out after they've been contaminated with germs throughout the day. But with a shortage of quality masks, many are left wondering how to keep their masks clean enough to reuse.
Last week the CDC released new guidelines for using UV germicidal decontamination methods in emergency situations to kill deadly viruses without harming the mask's filtration abilities. UV light is already commonly used in hospitals and other areas that require heavy sanitation, due to it's intense germ-killing properties. With this in mind, the CDC is working to discover more ways to utilize its power. While we know that UV light has been used in home air purification systems to effectively eradicate germs, toxins, viruses, and allergens in the home's air, many people are just now learning about UV light and are wondering exactly what it is and how it works...
What Is UV Light?
According to NASA, Ultraviolet (UV) light is a form of radiation which is invisible to the human eye. As an invisible part of the "electromagnetic spectrum," its electromagnetic radiation wavelengths are shorter than the violet end of visible light, making them impossible for our eyes to register and see.
While UV rays are invisible, they're extremely powerful. Have you ever sat outside for a few hours on a cloudy day without sunscreen, thinking you'd be fine, only to realize you got a terrible sunburn? That's the power of UV rays! Fortunately, the atmosphere of the Earth blocks the transmission of seriously dangerous levels of ultraviolet light.
There are three types of UV light; UV-A (lowest energy), UV-B (medium energy), and UV-C (highest energy). UV-C light can be the most damaging if used incorrectly, but is also the most powerful when harnessed for proper use.
How Does UV Light Work To Disinfect?
UV light penetrates the cells of bacteria, protozoa, germs, and viruses, absorbing the DNA or RNA that contain their genetic code and damaging it. Once harmful microorganisms are exposed to the germicidal wavelengths of UV-C light, they are rendered incapable of reproducing and infecting.
UV light has demonstrated it's germ-killing power over the years, fighting pathogenic organisms responsible for viral and bacterial diseases like polio, typhoid, and cholera. This makes it a promising option for future disinfecting efforts.
Should I Be Disinfecting My Own Mask?
If you're not a health care worker wearing an N95 mask on the front lines of this pandemic, you don't need to take these serious steps. The CDC has recommended that if you are one of the many who is simply trying to weather this storm, pick up groceries without getting infected or passing on a potential infection to anyone else, cover your face with a cloth that can be laundered at home.
Recently, The World Health Organization put out a warning stating that UV lamps should never be used to sterilize hands or any other part of your skin. Improper use of UV light could result in loss of sight, skin irritation or burning, and even cancer. While UV-C light is a great disinfectant, it should be used in safe, trusted formats like air purifiers, until more testing is concluded.
New research is happening, but that doesn't mean you should go out and purchase every UV wand or tool you see on Amazon. UV-C light might very well be the ultimate disinfectant, but it must be used in a specific way to be both truly safe and effective. For now, consider protecting your home, where you're spending most of your time, with a trusted UV-C light whole home air purifier. Stay informed, stay healthy, and stay safe!