As companies work to implement new cleaning protocols to prevent against the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, OSHA, the CDC, and the FDA have provided guidance to assist in the implementation of these practices.
Given the nature of how Coronavirus is spread, Germicidal ultraviolet air disinfection is currently the most effective technology for reducing transmission between people within the same space. Bipolar ionization can be effective, but the primary applications are within HVAC systems, which restrict them to smaller facilities. Fogging, meanwhile, isn't effective given that it can't be operated while people are present in a space.
All guidance suggests that organizations should maintain their regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. Organizations should also take care to ensure those that are disinfecting these spaces are appropriately protected with PPE and trained on how to safely use any new disinfection methods and equipment.
There are various types of disinfection/sanitation methods that can be used to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, with varying levels of safety and effectiveness. Here we'll review three: bipolar ionization, fogging, and germicidal ultraviolet radiation, or UVC light.
What is bipolar ionization?
Bipolar ionization systems add electromagnetic charge to the air in a room. These charges attach themselves to viruses, dust, and bacteria in the air and contain them.
The negative ions contain an extra electron, while the positive ions are missing an electron resulting in an unstable condition. In an effort to re-stabilize, these bipolar ions seek out atoms and molecules in the air to trade electrons with, effectively neutralizing particulate matter, bacteria and virus cells, odorous gases and aerosols, and VOCs.
How does bipolar ionization work?
The technology utilizes specialized tubes that take oxygen molecules from the air and convert them into charged atoms that then cluster around microparticles, surrounding and deactivating harmful substances like airborne mold, bacteria, allergens, and viruses.
What is fogging?
Fog machines come in two categories: wet and dry fog systems. A wet fog machine normally uses a chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide-based product, and dry fog systems use a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant/sterilant for decontamination.
How does fogging work?
Fogging can uniformly provide exposure to disinfectant throughout the room, covering even hard-to-reach surfaces, and, since fogging is semi-automated, it covers a wide area. Fogging should inactivate the airborne virus and allow higher sanitation efficacy than traditional surface disinfection would.
What is UVC light?
Also known as Germicidal ultraviolet light, UVC light refers to short-wavelength (200-400 nanometers) ultraviolet radiant energy that has been proven to kill bacteria and inactivate viruses.
How does UVC light work?
UVC light works by breaking down the DNA and RNA of bacteria and viruses, making it impossible for them to reproduce. It’s been used for years to disinfect drinking water, waste water, air, pharmaceuticals, and surfaces in healthcare facilities. To date, all bacteria and viruses tested respond to UV disinfection.
UV Surface carts are used when a space is unoccupied to disinfect surfaces and UV Air carts are used in an occupied space to continually disinfect the air in that space.
So what's the best option to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in your space?
Well, while fogging is an effective surface disinfectant, it cannot be used when occupants are present. In order for it to be effective in high-traffic spaces like schools, offices, and hotels, surface disinfection should be done at different points throughout the day.
There is significant downtime required after fogging is performed to allow for the safe reoccupation of the space, so fogging isn't the best option for areas that are going to be continuously unoccupied and reoccupied.
Since we now know that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is airborne and that it can be carried by tiny aerosols, equipment that disinfects the air is necessary to ensure you're effectively targeting the most likely means of transmission.
Bipolar ionization and germicidal ultraviolet light both work to disinfect the air in a space. Much of the evidence gathered so far suggests that close-range transmission by aerosols is significant so air disinfection units that are portable and/or localized are the best option.
Bipolar ionization is most commonly achieved through units installed in HVAC systems, although there are some stand-alone units that can be moved from room to room. Bipolar ionization can also produce ozone, which is harmful to humans and animals above certain concentration levels. It's important to make sure your equipment is manufactured correctly as to not increase the level of ozone in the air in your space.
Germicidal UVC light units can be implemented into your routine as a portable piece of equipment. There is no ozone produced or downtime required after using a Surface disinfection cart—aside from the dose required for that space—and Air carts are operated while a space is occupied. In fact, scientists are recommending facilities add portable air cleaners, or install germicidal ultraviolet technologies to remove or kill Coronavirus particles in the air.