CAN THOSE lights above your head protect you from viruses and bacteria? That’s the question top scientists are probing this week as a possible viral pandemic looms.
The researchers are investigating the effectiveness of standard ceiling lights which have been fitted with disinfecting ultraviolet LEDs.
The special shortwave UV lights are designed to kick in at night when the space is unoccupied, and slowly kill pathogens lurking on surfaces.
The Lighting Research Centre in New York, which is conducting the study, says that people who visit hospitals are expecting care and treatment, not additional complications, yet approximately 1 in 25 patients contract healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The effectiveness of standard cleaning procedures using detergents and disinfectants can vary considerably. In fact, less than 50 per cent of patient room surfaces are properly cleaned.
Short-wavelength light in the 200 nm to 410 nm range, ranging from ultraviolet (UV) to blue light, can destroy pathogens in a variety of ways, depending upon the wavelength, the duration, and the amount.
The scientists says they expect the decontamination of room surfaces to improve when the human element is removed.
LRC researchers are testing a hybrid lighting system, developed by GE Current, a Daintree company, which was designed to provide both visible white light and disinfecting UV-A.
The system has been retrofitted into a hospital newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at the Memorial Beacon Children’s Hospital in South Bend, Indiana.
The UV-A dosing was set to levels calculated to be safe for human occupation.
Eight-hour exposures on counter surfaces were effective for suppressing pathogens identified by the CDC as ‘highly problematic’ for healthcare facilities.
LRC researchers also conducted a survey aimed at assessing the opinions of professional staff working in the NICU about the hybrid lighting system.
Staff members accepted the hybrid lighting system, and the comments about the system were generally positive.
An analysis of photodegrading effects suggested that UV-A resistant equipment and furnishing may need to be installed with this technology. The findings were recently published in Lighting Research & Technology.
‘This lighting technology offers great promise in hospital applications,’ said Jennifer Brons, director of design demonstrations at the LRC.
‘We are currently planning future demonstrations in another hospital unit with a larger quantity of pathogens.
‘Reducing healthcare-associated infections is critically important,’ said LRC professor Dr. Mark Rea.
‘Unfortunately, the prevalence of these infections is only expected to rise. The present findings should form the foundation for the next generation of this technology.’