Power of Ultraviolet
Powerful Wavelengths of Energy
Nature has used the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) energy as a way to cleanse the earth. UV light has many practical uses. As mentioned, UV light is an important factor in health and has also found a niche in many business applications. The following is a list of the many wavelengths of UV light:
• UVA Ultraviolet A, long wave (black light) 400–315nm
• NUV Near 400–300nm
• UVB Ultraviolet B or medium wave 315–280nm
• MUV Middle 300–200nm
• UVC Ultraviolet C, short wave, or germicidal 280–100nm
• FUV Far 200–122nm
• EUV Extreme 200–10nm
Ultraviolet light has properties that keep medical instruments sterile, thus playing an integral role in medical facilities worldwide. Maternity wards use what is called “blue light therapy” for the treatment of hyperbilirubinemia (bilirubin), or neonatal jaundice. This condition is found in over 60 percent of prematurely born infants and if left untreated can cause brain damage or even death. Luckily, Jaundice-causing bilirubin is easily eliminated from the body with exposure to UV light, full spectrum light or sunlight. The treatment for jaundice was discovered in 1956, and blue light is now used in hospitals around the world for affected babies.
Ott had concerns about UV overexposure when he dined in a Chicago restaurant lit with ultraviolet black-lights. He wondered if the light might have a negative impact on the employees. After asking the restaurant manager a few questions, he learned the employees’ health and attendance record had been so good that the hotel management had conducted a formal inquiry to understand why even during flu epidemics, the restaurant employees never got sick. Could there be a photobiological connection between exposure to black lights and good health?
Effects are observed in the animal kingdom as well. When standard florescent lights are replaced with full spectrum lights, zoo animals become more active. Studies have also shown that animals not producing offspring in captivity began to mate when a full spectrum lighting system containing UV was installed. When black lights were placed over some of the fish tanks at the Miami Seaquarium, the curator noticed a decrease in the fatal disease called “pop-eye” (exophthalmus) prevalent in some fish. The curator later reported that certain fish unable to adapt to captivity now thrived under this added ultraviolet light. Similar reports have been published regarding reptiles, birds and animals in zoos throughout the world.
Ultraviolet light is also used in water purification, sewage treatment and air ventilation systems in hospitals and office buildings. The following is a list of UV light applications and their wavelengths:
• 230–400nm: Optical sensors
• 230–365nm: label tracking, identification
• 240–280nm: Water purification, disinfection, decontamination of surfaces (UVGI)
• 250–300nm: Forensic analysis, drug detection
• 254nm: Air purification, ultraviolet blood irradiation
• 270–300nm: Protein analysis, DNA sequencing, drug discovery
• 280–400nm: Medical imaging of cells
• 300–400nm: Offset printing plates, solid-state lighting
• 300–365nm: Curing of polymers
• 315–400nm: Psoriasis treatment
• 320–400nm: Blood cleaning for transfusions (Cerus Corporation)
• 350–370nm: Insect zappers
• 365–400nm: Counterfeit money detection
• 405nm: Blue ray DVD players
• 420–448nm: Neonatal jaundice treatment
• 450–490nm: Dental curing light
Recent studies show worker illness and respiratory problems decreased after installing full spectrum lighting in commercial and industrial work environments. In her article “UV Lamps Could Reduce Worker Sickness,” Emma Ross points out how new research proves ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) removes airborne pathogens in ventilation systems, killing germs and thereby reducing illness.
The Lancet published an article in which Canadian scientists found a 40 percent drop in breathing problems where the UVGI technique was used. It also reduced overall worker sickness by about 20 percent. “The cost of UVGI installation could in the long run prove cost-effective compared with the yearly losses from absence because of building-related illness,” says Dr. Dick Menzies, Director of the Respiratory Division at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He feels the installation of UVGI in North American office buildings could resolve millions of work-related employee illnesses.
Wladyslaw Jan Kowalski, an architectural engineer at Pennsylvania State University’s Indoor Environment Center, feels Menzies’ study could be a landmark in proving the technique is cost-effective in combatting contagious diseases, such as influenza, in commercial office buildings. “Theoretically, if a large number of schools, office buildings and residences were modified, a number of airborne respiratory diseases could be eradicated by interrupting the transmission cycle,” reports Kowalski in his book, Aerobiological Engineering Handbook A Guide to Airborne Disease Control Technologies. He asserts, “Reducing the transmission rate sufficiently would… halt epidemics in their path.” Poor indoor air quality negatively affects the health of millions in the United States— the potential benefit is huge. If used in school buildings, this technology could have an even larger impact on children. Because they breathe faster than adults, children inhale 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults and are especially sensitive to air quality problems.
Companies marketing UVGI technology make some astounding claims about the effectiveness of their technology. Guardian Air has U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved systems. Their independent lab tests indicate their systems kill ninety-nine percent of airborne and surface bacteria, viruses and mold, and eighty-five percent of gases odors, and volatile organic compounds. Their photobiological systems are used in:
• government buildings
• nursing homes
• cruise ship restaurant chains
• daycare centers
• commercial buildings
UV light medical applications are also gaining widespread attention. Psoriasis, a skin disorder, can be treated by using UVA in combination with PUVA, a light sensitive compound. One that has been developed is 8-Methoxypsoralen (MOP-8) and was introduced 1978 to be applied topically in conjunction with UV treatment. MOP-8 is a chemical found naturally in figs as a defense against insects; when an insect eats the fruit, it becomes light sensitive and gets burned by the sun.
The use of psoralen is currently part of an FDA-approved system that cleans blood of bacteria and viruses. Cerus Corporation has developed amotosalen, a light-activated psoralen compound which is used to neutralize pathogens in blood for transfusions. The blood is cleaned by mixing it with amotosalen, then exposing it to UV light. John Hearst, Founding Director of Cerus Corporation, Professor Emeritus UC Berkeley, formerly a Senior Staff Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and past President of American Society for Photobiology notes that unlike testing procedures, this blood safety method does not rely upon identification of harmful organisms, but cleans the blood of all pathogens during the process, thus guaranteeing safety.
The applications of UV light in maintaining healthy environments, water systems, hospital operation rooms, our skin, our babies and the air we breathe make UV a great tool, and I’m sure many of its uses have yet to be seen.
Copyright © Matt DeBow
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