“We really need to think about UVC as kind of being within our suite, our tool box, of ways of killing coronaviruses.”By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – As the battle against the coronavirus pandemic continues, many companies are touting products that claim to kill dangerous pathogens in the air, or on surfaces, using ultraviolet light.

However, questions remain regarding how effective these products — from lamps to wands — can actually be at preventing the spread of the infection. Scientists are warning consumers to beware of false claims.

On a hot August day, Goettl technician Brian Jimenez climbs into an attic in a Simi Valley home to install a UV light in the air conditioning unit. Jimenez says the tiny UV light will reduce the amount of bacteria or viruses circulating in the air.

“Once the pandemic occurred, we saw a huge rise in filtration, UV lights, any products that are used to reduce amount of allergens and viruses,” Jimenez said.

Homeowner Eric Hoff told CBSLA his peace of mind was worth the cost to install.

“The coronavirus made me, kind of pushed me, to getting it done, just because I wanted everyone to be safe,” Hoff said.

USC engineer Andrea Armani and her lab team created a UV radiation system of their own to give to the USC Keck School of Medicine at the height of the pandemic.

“In my research lab we developed, like a plastic bin, that just has a UV source mounted on side, and it can hold, it’s an 18-gallon bin, like a plastic bin that you can buy at Lowe’s,” Armani said.

She created 55 disinfectant bins to help sanitize personal protective equipment and other medical equipment. She provided CBSLA a photo of a petri dish which she says shows how UV light can kill the exposed bacteria.

The right side of this petri dish shows bacteria which has been killed by UV light. August 2020. (Credit: USC engineer Andrea Armani)

“So I think this is a really good way to tackle coronavirus,” Armani said.

Armani says places like hospitals, prior to the pandemic, had already been using this particular spectrum of light — which is called UVC — to kill off contaminants. However, she warns people can easily be duped into buying a product that don’t work.

“All of these wavelengths, you can’t see with your eye, so you’ve no way of telling if your lightbulb is actually the right wave length,” Armani said. “So it was recently on a YouTube video, it’s called the banana test.”

The banana test involves holding the UVC light directly over the skin of a banana for a couple of seconds and if it turns brown, then it works.

Armani alleges there are products out there that do work.

“We really need to think about UVC as kind of being within our suite, our tool box, of ways of killing coronaviruses,” Armani said.

However, Armani cautions that UVC light is dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.

Goettl, meanwhile, said the price of installing UV light varies depending on the size of your home or your service contract.

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