FM Articles

Rethinking Cleaning & Disinfection


Pathogens, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, aren’t going away, but we can take steps to mitigate their impact. It’s time to rethink cleaning and disinfection in U.S. facilities to reduce our exposure to and spread of harmful pathogens that can cause illness and carry associated costs.

Filtered Far UV-C is a new tool to help facility managers fight existing pathogens and forthcoming pandemics to keep students, teachers, healthcare workers, and patients safe.

Over the past three years, the pandemic changed lives, altered how we live, and upended business across every industry with especially challenging effects within education and healthcare. The impact – deaths, illness, missed learning opportunities, lost wages, economic downturn – was significant. Schools closed and 77 million students and more than 5 million educators across 135,000 public and private schools in the U.S. suddenly had to navigate distance learning and teaching. Hospitals and healthcare facilities – more than 1.4 million nationwide – were quickly overtaxed by an influx of patients and staffing shortages. This strain was combined with the 1.7 million healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) contracted in U.S. hospitals each year and that results in annual costs of $28B – $33B.

Current Disinfection Methods Are Insufficient
Pathogens can stay in the air for minutes to hours and on surfaces for days to months, making it easy to spread pathogens just with common activity. Manual chemical cleaning methods such as chemical disinfectant sprays and wipes are often insufficient for inactivating pathogens on school and hospital surfaces as many of these products are not being used frequently enough or effectively. Chemicals are only effective when users adhere to product instructions and dwell times, or the length of time a surface needs to remain “wet,” which can range between 2-10 minutes before the surface is available for re-use. The fumes from chemical disinfectants can be harmful to humans and some chemicals are not suitable for all surfaces as they may corrode technology and touchscreens or be ineffective on certain materials and fabrics.

Because cleaning and disinfecting processes take time, they often happen only one to two times per day, so as soon as a person touches a surface, it is re-contaminated. Frequency matters – a surface is only as clean as its last disinfection.

Disinfection Has a New Tool
The multi-layered approach of vaccines, therapeutics, hand washing, face masks, disinfectants, and social distancing can all help in the fight against spreading harmful pathogens, but facilities can also implement a safe, continuous disinfection method called filtered Far UV-C.

Filtered Far UV-C is a breakthrough technology developed to inactivate harmful pathogens. Filtered Far UV-C is a germicidal light, and it is ready now to be deployed in classrooms and healthcare facilities across the U.S. It can be utilized safely and effectively while people are present. Facility managers do not need to vacate or close a space for disinfection. Filtered Far UV-C disinfects pathogens with the same efficacy as conventional UV-C light (long used in hospitals and healthcare settings for disinfection when people are not present in a space or utilizing protective gear), but it has a patented filter system that, when used within the current limits set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the recently updated North American standards set by American National Standards Institute (ANSI), makes it safe for human use and exposure without requiring protective gear.

Filtered Far UV-C is an always-on, potentially lifesaving germicidal technology that can be installed in overhead fixtures in schools and healthcare facilities to inactivate aerosolized pathogens. In handheld format at close-to-surface distances, it results in rapid disinfection. Testing has demonstrated this technology in a handheld device inactivates pathogens in seconds, including SARS-CoV-2 in less than one second at close distance.

In a classroom, conventional overhead lights can be replaced with lighting fixtures that include filtered Far UV-C lights that can operate while students and teachers are in the space. The air within the room would be continuously disinfected, with equivalent air changes per hour that make this indoor air essentially as safe as outdoor air.

To disinfect surfaces, a convenient, portable handheld version of the technology can be utilized by directing the light onto commonly touched surfaces, including desks, chairs, books, art supplies, computer keyboards, handles, lab equipment, and touchscreens. Each of these surfaces can be rapidly disinfected as frequently as needed throughout the school day without the harmful fumes and corrosiveness, as well as necessary dwell time associated with the use of chemical disinfectants.

Similarly, this technology can be used in hospitals and healthcare facilities to increase frequency of disinfection on high-touch surfaces such as rolling workstations, bed rails, over the bed trays, monitors, and door handles to reduce bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including MRSA, E. coli, salmonella, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2, which can lead to HAIs.

Filtered Far UV-C technology is not intended to replace all chemical disinfection methods, but a multi-layered approach that includes filtered Far UV-C is more efficient and effective, can be done with greater frequency and convenience, and is environmentally friendly.

Far UV-C vs. Filtered Far UV-C: An Important Distinction
Conventional UV-C devices and lamps emit UV-C light with a peak irradiance of 254nm. This wavelength is tough on pathogens but is too dangerous for use when people are directly exposed to it.

Far UV-C refers to UV-C light having a peak irradiance of 222nm. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as 222nm light and has been scientifically proven to have the same efficacy as 254nm UV-C. However, even with a peak irradiance of human safe 222nm, some harmful irradiance occurs at unsafe wavelengths. When filtered using the patented filter system, irradiance is restricted to a proven safe wavelength range of 200nm to 230nm.

Not all Far UV-C is the same, and unfortunately, Far UV-C light is often misrepresented in the media and incorrectly touted by companies as safe for human exposure without mention of the needed, patented filter system. The filter system is essential for safe, human exposure because it blocks any additional, harmful-to-human, higher UV-C wavelengths that are also emitted. Opportunists have disregarded the need for a filter and introduced products which emit wavelengths that are unsafe for human exposure and have the potential to cause long-term health effects.

The Future of Disinfection Is Ready Today
Utilizing filtered Far UV-C requires a shift in mindset and approach. As facility managers are planning and designing for safe indoor environments, they should consider filtered Far UV-C disinfection for keeping air and surfaces cleaner.

Jennifer Rosen and Ben Feeney are co-founders of Freestyle Partners, LLC, an IP accelerator that has a portfolio of U.S. and global patents and patents pending that utilize UV-C and filtered Far UV-C within a variety of commercial applications.