If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is no place for complacency moving forward.
Emerging from lockdown doesn’t mean our invisible enemies have been eradicated. In fact, living with viruses and bacteria has called for significantly higher level of awareness and vigilance.
As the country begins to re-open, we must consider what is required to reassure Australians that enough is being done to keep them and their families safe. Gathering in highly frequented spaces such as public transport hubs, offices, and schools, can be daunting after extended periods of lockdown, as people no longer have complete control over the environment they are interacting with.
This can become an area of concern for parents who must leave safety of their children in the hands of schools and early learning centres when they have to return to the office. So, what can be done to help not only ease the worries of parents, but also take the burden off educators and allow them to focus on connecting with their students instead?
A very viable option that has resurfaced because of the pandemic is the use of UV-C light. UV-C solutions offer a highly effective and established measure of disinfection that could go a long way in providing safer environments for everyone.
Through their Philips brand of professional lighting solutions, the company Signify brings more than 40 years of UV-C experience to contribute to the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 virus, plus other harmful pathogens. In response to the recent global crisis, the company has developed a specialised portfolio of UV-C air and surface disinfection products in close collaboration with renowned experts in the field.
But how do they actually work?
UV-C light is a category of ultraviolet light with wavelengths between 100-280 nanometres(nm). It has been utilised for decades as an effective tool in preventing the spread of contagious diseases in applications such as disinfecting water, surfaces, and air in very short time periods.
UV-C light inactivates viruses and microorganisms such as bacteria, moulds, spores, fungi and yeasts by breaking down their DNA or RNA. It has proven highly effective against all pathogens tested to-date, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. The specific spectrum of light where maximum germicidal action takes place, can artificially be generated through lamp technology, which is not only sustainable, but also more environmentally friendly than several other disinfection means.
So what are the possibilities for schools?
In looking at how UV-C solutions could be applied in schools and early learning centres; air quality is an obvious place to begin. Viruses and bacteria can be airborne, spreading when people breathe, talk, cough, sneeze, or partake in any activities which generate aerosol particles or droplets. Heating, cooling and air circulation in these spaces can further mobilise and distribute airborne particles.
The Victorian Government recently purchased 51,000 air purifiers for Victorian schools. These units are for air purification by filtration only using HEPA filter technology. Although this option can be effective in capturing airborne particles within specific dimensions, it does not neutralise them. Pathogens can remain active on filters for extended periods.
The installation of the Philips ‘upper-air’ disinfection units offers an additional defence mechanism against microorganisms in the air. These unobtrusive devices radiate UV-C light controlled by the louvre and reflector design in the upper areas of rooms, allowing for the quiet and effective disinfection of the air in a space, free from interruption whilst ensuring that day-to-day activities can continue beneath where the device is active.
For the most effective disinfection in a room, the upper air ‘wall or ceiling mounted’ devices need to be carefully distributed. This is where professional lighting design comes into play, giving consideration to multiple factors that ensure maximum efficiency and safety of use.
Signify’s ‘Ecolink’ floor-standing disinfection unit, takes purification and the potential for protection to the next level. Not only does this device offer advanced HEPA and carbon filtration capabilities, it also incorporates the UV-C light disinfection technology capable of neutralizing microbes, viruses, and bacteria in the same way as previously mentioned. The integrated UV-C function further mitigates the risk of infection.
Trials have already begun at the Bambini Parkville
Bambini Early Learning Centre, has already installed seven units across its staff room, meals area, and two learning rooms. Parents of the children attending the centre, majority of which include nurses and doctors, have expressed they feel reassured knowing that extra precautions have been taken to protect their families.
Research from Boston University has revealed that Signify’s UV-C light sources reduced SARS-CoV-2 virus infectivity on a surface to below detectable levels in as few as 9 seconds. Giving a clear indication that UV-C light can play a valuable part in Australia’s safe return to pre-lockdown life. Due to the unobtrusive nature of the devices, children are not exposed to harmful or distracting lights, and they can be used throughout the day.
The government has warned the return to busy public spaces, including transport hubs, work offices and schools, would see a significant rise in cases and infections within the community. The research found that the rollout of UV-C light technology is an affordable and effective tool for protecting and reducing outbreaks of COVID-19.