A patent-pending system worn under face masks to sanitize the air and neutralize live viruses such as COVID-19 through ultraviolet light exposure may soon be available from a company called Oracle Lighting.
The new “Antimicrobial Irradiation Respirator,” or AIR device, is said to protect against the 5 percent of particulate that manages to get past N95 masks, according to a company statement.
“Consumers need better assurance to be confident that they will not be exposed [to COVID-19],” said Justin Hartenstein, Oracle Lighting director of product development, in the company statement. “The AIR device will neutralize that remaining five percent while sanitizing the contaminated mask at the same time. Studies have shown that respiratory pathogens on the outer surface of cloth masks can actually result in self-contamination, which is exactly what they are intended to prevent. Because of this, we see the unique UV irritation benefits of the AIR device as the best sanitization scenario for mitigating exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses.”
According to Oracle Lighting, existing personal air filtration masks are designed to prevent the inhalation of viruses by trapping the particles from the incoming air in the cloth material worn on the face. However, they are not designed to disinfect or sanitize the particles. Masks can then become saturated with live viruses, pathogens, bacterium or other microorganisms attached to the fabric surfaces.
Health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have advised laundering face masks. In fact, the CDC specifically wrote, “a washing machine should suffice in properly washing a cloth face covering.”
Oracle Lighting, however, says “most consumer-grade laundry detergent does not contain disinfectant and, in fact, studies show that pathogens can actually be spread in the wash and contaminate other laundry in the load.”
“The AIR device is composed of a small cover made of an anti-microbial polymer which is worn on the face and attached with straps similar to a traditional face mask,” Hartenstein said. “The user wears a traditional face mask (cloth mask, surgical mask, N95, etc.) over the device. A small rechargeable battery pack powers the device and can be manually turned on and off by the user. In addition to the anti-germicidal LEDs, the device also contains UV-A LEDs which provide a wider light spectrum and visible light. The visible UV-A LED functions as an indicator that the device is on and working but provides minimal anti-microbial benefits.”
Wavelengths between 200 to 300 nanometers provide the most effective germicidal function, Oracle Lighting wrote, reasoning the wavelength of UV-C irradiation uses photons to inactivate the virus, preventing the cell from replicating and infecting the body if inhaled.
“UV-C light has been used in many applications such as the purification of drinking water for decades,” Hartenstein said. “While UV-C is part of the normal spectrum of sunlight, it is invisible and can cause sunburn with direct skin exposure. This was taken into account when developing the AIR and so the UV light is directed into the mask, away from the user, to prevent any direct skin exposure.”
The company expects the device to be available by June 2020.