Healthy Living: Using UV light to disinfect


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As some businesses welcome guests back inside, temperature checks and hand sanitizer are already the norm in order to enter. Now, it is becoming more common to see UV sanitizing machines as well. It is technology hospitals have been using to clean and disinfect surfaces for years. 

Dr. Jim Polo, the Behavioral Health Medical Director with Regence BlueShield, says we really need to understand ultraviolet light first.

“Ultraviolet light will only destroy cells when the light touches the surface and it must be with prolonged exposure time to actually work," Polo says. 

Dr. Polo says there are typically three wavelengths of ultraviolet light.

 “’A waves’ are those that cause tanning and can make your skin look prematurely old. ‘B waves’ are those that cause sunburn and can lead to skin cancer. ‘C waves’ actually destroy cellular genetic material," he says. 

While our atmosphere filters out those 'C Waves' we have esentially harnessed that power, putting it into technology that allows us to disinfect just about anything. The UV machines come in all shapes and sizes and range in price. One for your devices will likely start around twenty-five dollars and go up from there.

Dr. Polo has one specifically for his phone.

“I have a machine that I bought which is used specifically to disinfect telephones. It’s quite simple, you open it up, put my telephone in and when I close it, it will turn on and it will stay on long enough to disinfect all of the surfaces of my phone.” 

Annissa Poole is the owner of Edit Hair Studio in Lynnwood and she says she bought a UV disinfectant box for around two-hundred dollars. She says it gives her piece of mind and also put her clients at ease, “They think it’s super cool and um I think people are just focused more on health and safety and cleanliness. So this just kinda shows that I am taking that into consideration for them and they really see it as an added amenity to their experience.” 

So while the technology may be effective, Dr. Polo says you don't necessarily need to run out and get one. He says washing your masks in a washing machine and drying them in the drier will also do the trick. If you are hand washing, he says scrub the surface of the mask for at least 30 seconds. He says a benefit of washing your mask instead of just throwing it under UV light, washing will actually clean and remove makeup and odors, too. 

“If you use ultraviolet light, be prepared for the smells and odors to still be there as well as makeup stains.” 

Dr. Polo reminds us that UV light in the 'C wavelength' is dangerous to humans. He says if you do opt to use one of these machines, follow the directions and do not expose your skin to the light. 


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