Prof. Jim Malley of UNH was featured prominently in my column earlier this month about disinfecting clothing, because he’s had decades of experience in the matter. Among other things, we talked about using ultraviolet light inside specialized machines to disinfect material, and our conversation touched on why this isn’t effective or safe for people.
Apparently President Trump doesn’t read my column because in his latest off-the-cuff and completely inaccurate bit of medical advice he touted UV as a way to treat or cure people. UNH and Malley have responded with this release.
Jim Malley, an internationally known expert in ultraviolet light and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire, is available to talk about why UV light to treat COVID-19 is not safe for patients or pets.
“UV light, more specifically germicidal UV or far UVC, can be very effective at inactivating viruses, bacteria and other human pathogens and if properly designed and operated can be a successful application for disinfecting PPEs, surgical instruments, air and water,” says Malley. “However, we’re talking about light waves at low wavelengths that contain a lot of energy and that energy has been shown in many studies to be extremely damaging to human tissues in particular the skin and the eyes.”
Even though some recent reports have explored that using far UVC, in a wavelength range of 220 to 225, may be less damaging to human tissues, Malley says these are still preliminary lab studies, primarily on mice, and need to be studied to better determine human health impacts and provide a more complete understanding of how and where this far UVC energy is absorbed by the body. Until then, Malley agrees with panels of health and UV experts that UV energy is not recommended as a treatment for COVID-19.
“In general, physical or chemical methods that are made to disinfect or kill organisms whose molecular building blocks are not that much different than ours should be treated by the public the same way they treat poisons,” says Malley. (My translation: Using enough UV to actually harm any virus in your body will harm your body even more; the treatment would be worse than the disease.)
Malley has over 30 years of experience using chemical and physical options, in particular UV, to disinfect water, air and surfaces from bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts. His expertise has helped guide front line medical practitioners and first responders from Boston to Denver and beyond looking for facts on the most effective way to use UV light to disinfect N95 masks and medical equipment. UV is being used in hospitals and hanging in ambulances so EMTs can sanitize their surfaces and implements on the go. Malley estimates about a third of the calls he receives are from healthcare professionals in rural areas that don’t have the same resources as those in cities.
Below are several links that describe Far-UVC 222nm germicidal safety/efficacy testing performed to date – in short, Far-UVC 222nm wavelength kills/inactivates viruses and other microbials in air, in liquids and on surfaces (in seconds) but cannot penetrate the outer dead skin layer or tear layer on eyes. Worth giving biophysicists and engineers a shot at helping us out with their expertise…
Peer reviewed Publications:
Buonanno M, Ponnaiya B, Welch D, et al. Germicidal Efficacy and Mammalian Skin Safety of 222-nm UV Light. Radiat Res. 2017;187(4):483–491. doi:10.1667/RR0010CC.1
Kaidzu S1, Sugihara K1, Sasaki M2, Nishiaki A2, Igarashi T2, Tanito M1. Evaluation of acute corneal damage induced by 222-nm and 254-nm ultraviolet light in Sprague-Dawley rats. Free Radic Res. 2019 Jun;53(6):611-617. doi: 10.1080/10715762.2019.1603378. Epub 2019 May 27.
Welch, D., Buonanno, M., Grilj, V. et al. Far-UVC light: A new tool to control the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases. Sci Rep 8, 2752 (2018).
Far-UVC Light Manufacturers – additional data provided at each website:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U4DAQ3kjRs – go to minute marker 5:07
Dear Mr. Lyon: I read with great interest your comment and your literature references as well as links to the far UVC light manufacturers. When those papers came out several members of the International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA) read them with great interest and we look forward to the further research and emerging developments in this promising technology. There is no question in my mind that biophysicists, photobiologists, engineers (which I am proud to be one) are helping us understand and develop technologies and work against epidemics and this pandemic. As you understand and can appreciate the public health and medical professions tend to move conservatively when the topic turns to direct use of technologies in close contact to humans. As I mentioned it will be very helpful and instructive to see additional research discussing mechanistic issues, discuss the effectiveness of UV-222 penetrating the aerosolized or mucus coated viral particles and we all look forward to further progress further developments and further demonstration. We are aware of a fair number of papers and abstracts and we believe some questions remain that need answers. I also work a great deal with ozonation based systems and it would be instructive to see some peer reviewed published research on whether or not UV-222 would generate significant levels of indoor ozone if applied widely to indoor spaces as some have proposed. Once again than you for that interesting and informed comment. Sincerely,
Dear Professor Malley,
It is an honor to receive a reply from you – thank you! I work in the drug development sector, and very much appreciate the care scientists and researchers take towards their work to ensure the data is sound before advancing such research. There are very few if any drugs, vaccines or other treatments that do not have any risks, the question we make (through innovators, regulators and payers and doctors and patients) is whether the risk is worth the benefit. Part of the hope in advancing quickly, the many treatments for Covid-19, is that in the next several months we will have relatively safe and effective treatments and vaccines so that we can return to normal, however, we all know there are no guarantees, especially with diseases that can mutate. My interest is not whether we should forgo testing of far-UVC, we all agree this is absolutely necessary to confirm efficacy and safety, but rather should this technology be given similar FDA “fast track” status for such studies as was given to the many Covid-19 treatments and vaccines now advancing in clinical studies. Maybe the FDA has given such status but such news has not been made public; if not, my interest would be that this technology be on a short list for regulators’ consideration given the data we have to date (for both efficacy and safety). The risk of skin cancer or damage to the eyes can be tested (and from the data so far can be mitigated) while the benefit of sterilizing air, surfaces and liquids in occupied spaces would be a “game changer” not just for the Covid-19 threat but for the many other microbials that cost patients and our health care system so dearly. As to the risk and health hazards of creating indoor ozone, it should be noted that 222nm Far-UVC products are already sold/used for indoor settings for sterilizing unoccupied operating rooms and bath rooms; this risk can be vetted quickly with manufacturers who would have significant liability if their products produced indoor ozone. This is a time for urgency and action, it would be great to see such a distinguished expert as yourself getting on the “band wagon” with experts like Dr. Brenner of Columbia University Center for Radiological Research and engineers at Ushio and Sterilary who produce 222nm Far-UVC products, to promote immediate exploratory testing of far-UVC for human occupied spaces. With all of our best minds working together from all the scientific disciplines, we will have the very best shot at winning the war against Covid-19. Kindest regards, Reed
Dear Professor Malley – by amazing coincidence, you are located only 12 miles from another engineer who shares your passion for UVC technology and happens to be the president of one of the very manufactures of the far-UVC light products mentioned above – it would be great to hear about your collaboration with him in the near future – see website contact info below:
Edward Neister, President
Excimer Wave Sterilray™
30 Centre Road, Suite 5 Somersworth, NH 03878
We all are counting on experts like you and Mr. Neister to help bring solutions to solve this crisis. God’s speed!
Hello Professor Jim,
Far UVC has the potential to be historic in eliminating or minimizing all respiratory contagious diseases and saving millions of lives. How do we get the government or private industry or you to “warp speed” a technology that has these possibilities? Professor Jim, what can we do to help you? If we can get you funding, what would you be able to do?
Military Ordnance Proving Dept. has almost finished testing of the Molotov Cocktail and will release their recommendations regarding use later this year.
Research into the effectiveness of the Taliban IED’s will begin shortly after.
Nightime use of UV light was used to disinfect operating rooms until chemicals became more the vogue. UV light was effective on the surfaces it could reach (and not as human toxic). May not do it all but how about a combination? Its a shame to the disincentivize creative minds that might take this concept of UV energy and run with it, use UV is new ways or modify the energy generation, power or some variable to render it human-compatible? Remember the disinfection scene from the “Andromeda Strain”?
I’ve contacted my congressman, senators, the white house, numerous government agencies and news sources about the use of Far UV-C radiation to eradicate pathogens with not one response. I did receive a positive response from the new Boeing CEO since Boeing is pursuing this approach for commercial aircraft. The media seemed to ridicule comments about sunlight and UV being used against Covid-19 after a brief by Dr. Bryan of DHS but solid science says this is may be the best long-term solution against all pathogens. The current emphasis throughout the world is on medical solutions while ignoring a near term technology solution for global resilience to infectious disease. We need to immediately initiate the research, development and/or clinical trials necessary to obtain FDA certification of Far UV-C ultraviolet lighting as eye and skin safe. This could lead to rapid introduction into all public spaces such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, grocery stores, mass transportation etc. We also need a domestic manufacturing capability for the excimer and solid-state Far UV-C light sources.
A person of like mind. I have tried contacting everyone you have as well with no response except from David Agus MD from CBS News. David Agus answered that he does not promote things and that it “…hasn’t yielded the results promised in pilot studies.” I also contacted the CDC, the federal and NJ Dept of Health, Office of Emergency Management with no response. Why??? What can we do to get this into “Warp Speed” research?
The Navy and DHS are aware Of the potential and Are planning a course of action. We really need National high level attention. I’ll keep trying and need all the help possible.
The medical communities are notoriously reluctant to consider anything outside their current orthodoxies…witness Semmelwies struggle to get surgeons to wash their hands or Barry J Marshall’s attempts to get recognition for the bacterial cause of stomach ulcers. Despite solid research and infecting and curing himself in 1983, it took a decade more suffering patients until Reader’s Digest and National Enquirer articles generated any traction. https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/the-doctor-who-drank-infectious-broth-gave-himself-an-ulcer-and-solved-a-medical-mystery
I get the same dismissive reaction from many in the same field who seem unable to differentiate between the properties of different wavelength UV.
Buonanno has published at least as far back as 2013 so if Jim Malley and the IUVA have been following them “with great interest” for 7 years, why does he flatly dismiss far UVC as “dangerous”?
The Japanese are already deploying 222nm in hospitals. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/10/world/science-health-world/uvc-lamps-coronavirus/#.XriY4mhKi_R
So true of neglecting solutions outside one’s discipline or expertise. Keep contacting politicians, news media, talk shows print media etc. I’ve tried all without success. Persistence and data will eventually prevail. R&D plus clinical trials for efficacy & safety require major funding. Results can provide a major breakthrough to eliminate pathogens worldwide.
I read with great interest all comments here re: the use of Far UV-C lamps in rooms to disinfect surfaces and the air of covid-19 and bacteria, etc. There are companies
selling these lamps, including smaller portable ones.
Am I correct in concluding from your comments that such Far UV-C lamps are still in the testing stage and not potentially safe for use in residential spaces? Instructions for the lamps require running them for 30 minutes in an unoccupied room and waiting 45 minutes for the ozone generated to dissipate before re-entering the room.
I have written to Ushio which has been developing such a lamp, but I have not received a response.
The lamps from these companies run from $80 to $200 each. Not a lot of money, but I am reluctant to spend even a penny on something still being tested for its safety to humans.
I would be grateful for any comments.