Far UV-C Handwashing is Urgently Needed
WaveHalo is a faster, safer, and more effective solution for cleaning hands and phones than washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer. WaveHalo uses 222nm ultraviolet-light (Far-UVC) to clean hands and handheld objects such as phones in 5 seconds. First, Far-UVC reduces bacteria, viruses, and some spores on surfaces and in the air. Second, repeated safety testing shows no risk to human skin from Far-UVC, even at extreme doses. Unfortunately, WaveHalo can only be used 3 times daily under the antiquated, 45-year-old recommended exposure limits. These limits are scheduled to increase to match modern-day studies, however, that may take months or years.
The problems with conventional hand cleaning:
The current ways we clean our hands leaves behind pathogens and can damage our skin. Handwashing for 20 seconds with soap and water is the CDC recommendation and first defense against community-spread illnesses  . This method, however, depends on rigorous scrubbing and duration. Unfortunately, only 5.3% of Americans wash their hands for 15 seconds , limiting the benefits of hand-washing. The remaining pathogens create an individual and community health risk. Although alcohol-based sanitizers are more reliable, they are harsh on skin after repeated use and they are costly. Painful dry skin caused by sanitizers has been shown in studies to actually dissuade further use among 52% of nurses and 44% of healthcare workers [3,4]. With the increase of handwashing and sanitizer use due to the pandemic, contact dermatitis and eczema has increased in frontline healthcare workers and children alike [3,5,6]. Furthermore, pathogens have begun building alcohol tolerance, causing increased cases of hospital-acquired infections due to reliance on hand sanitizers between patient encounters [7,8]. Consequently, Far-UVC is a faster, better, chemical and contact-free solution.
Far-UVC is effective against pathogens:
Far-UVC light already removes a wide range of pathogens from surfaces, food, water, and the air. Far-UVC light is absorbed by the DNA and proteins of pathogens, causing dose-dependent damage and rendering them unable to infect or reproduce [9,10]. Far-UVC has been shown to be effective against bacteria that are commonly treated by antibiotics, such as K. pneumoniae, Salmonella typhimurium, and M. tuberculosis [11-13], as well as bacteria that are antibiotic resistant, such as S. aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile [14-16]. Additionally, bacterial spores that are resistant to antibiotics and most conventional cleaning methods are susceptible to Far-UVC light, making UVC the ideal countermeasure for Anthrax and the spores that lead to tetanus and C. difficile infections [14,17,18]. Further, Far-UVC can also deactivate both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. Use of UVC has been shown to lead to reduced viral numbers [19-21] and instances of community spread  for Tuberculosis, influenza, and SARS-CoV2. Commercially, Far-UVC light is already used in clinical settings to cleanse surgical rooms and medical equipment22 and industrially to sanitize water or food [23-26], but not used to sanitize human skin. The ability of Far-UVC to effectively sanitize a broad range of infectious agents (bacteria, spores, fungi, and viruses) should be leveraged to promote hand sanitization and better community health.
Far-UVC is skin-safe
Far-UVC is safe for use on human skin as shown in repeated studies. Skin has a natural outer, dead layer to protect the still living layer beneath from drying out and being damaged . Because Far-UVC light wavelengths are short, they are rapidly absorbed or scattered by the top, dead layer of skin, leaving the underlying living tissue untouched [27-30]. Far-UVC did not cause damage in mice skin or eyes after exposure of up to 450mJ/cm2 [30,31], or in human skin after exposure of up to 6,100mJ/cm2 [29, 32-34]. However, these values far surpass the 45-year-old American Conference for Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) standard of 22mJ/cm2 (the standard relied on by the FDA, EPA and safety laboratories). Fortunately, ACGIH appears to recognize current scientific understanding and has published its intent to raise these limits to ~600mJ/cm2 . Unfortunately, these updates can take months or years to be approved.
Helping People Faster
Because of the public health emergency, the FDA has the authority to make EUAs that could allow for Far-UVC hand sanitization to immediately operate at the proven higher standards. For example, WaveHalo uses the 7mJ/cm2 Far-UVC per cleaning cycle. Under current standards, this is 3 daily uses. Under the future standards, this March 19, 2021 would be 85 daily uses. The increased number of uses would mean clean hands (and phones) without the painful cracking and bleeding for healthcare workers, frontline food-service, and other high-frequency handwashing professionals.
- Dr. Janet Price
PhD Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology - University of Michigan
Vice President of Research and Regulatory Affairs
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