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Pair of Oregon companies aim to create UV light system that kills coronavirus

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Ultraviolet light has been used to kill bacteria and viruses for years but it’s dangerous for human skin and eyes.

Posted: Apr 28, 2020 11:46 AM
Updated: Apr 28, 2020 11:50 AM

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HILLSBORO, Ore. (KPTV) -- In a Hillsboro manufacturing facility, workers are trying to churn out prototypes as fast as possible for a combination LED and ultraviolet lighting system they hope will soon become a new weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

Lights There, a Portland-based commercial LED lighting company, has partnered with Hillsboro-based Northwest Innovative Technologies to design and manufacture light troffers that will incorporate enclosed UV light chambers behind traditional LED lights.

Northwest Innovative Technologies designs and manufactures electronics.

“We think it’s a game-changer right now in this environment,” said Lights There director and co-founder, Thomas Adkins. “It’s nothing new that UV is out there,” Adkins added. “We’re just packaging it in a way that protects the human.”

Adkins told FOX 12 his company has been working on ways to use UV light to kill germs for years, then the pandemic happened.

“This fast-tracked our company and our development,” Adkins said.

Recently, FOX 12 visited the facility where the prototypes are in the works and saw a demonstration of how the lights would work.

“This is a lighting trough, this is typical,” said Lights There Operational Director Steve Daniel, as he held a trough. “We have an LED lighting fixture which is typical in an office or a hospital.”

“What we’re doing is creating a chamber behind the light, so there’s an area in here where we’d have small fans,” Daniel continued. “The air comes in, goes through the UV kill zone, it comes back out and it’s exhausted but none of the UV light gets out of the fixture.”

Lights There claims a typical office room could have all its air sanitized safely in an hour as it is pulled through the system.

“What we want to do is kill the viruses while they’re still in the air, before they’ve even settled onto surfaces,” Daniel said.

Ultraviolet light has been used to kill bacteria and viruses for years but it’s dangerous for human skin and eyes.

“You do have to be careful that you don’t expose people to this germicidal UV light because it’s a health hazard,” said Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center of Radiological Research at Columbia University.

Brenner is making headlines for the university’s work studying a wavelength of UV light thought to be safe for humans.

It’s called "Far-UVC light" and Brenner has been experimenting with the wavelengths for years to see if it could be applied to fight the flu in high-traffic areas like buses, airplanes, hospitals and clinics.

“We think that it has all the killing potential of any type of germicidal UV light but uniquely it’s safe for human exposure,” Brenner said. “You can actually have these lights open and exposed in the ceiling.”

Brenner hasn’t seen the enclosed UV system that Lights There and Northwest Innovative Technologies is working on, but spoke to FOX 12 about UV technology in general.

“This type of approach has been around for at least 20 years and has been tried many times and sometimes, quite successfully,” Brenner said.

“If it’s set up right, it can certainly work,” Brenner said of Lights There’s design. “There’s always an issue with these systems, is how much light is actually getting out into the room itself? And that limits the intensity of the light that you can put inside this box.”

Then there’s the question as to whether UV light can kill COVID-19. Scientists are still studying the possibility but believe the answer is yes.

“It’s a perfectly reasonable assumption to assume that conventional germicide will kill the COVID-19 virus,” Brenner said.

Lights There said a patent on its design is pending and it’s in the process of seeking approval from the FDA. The business is also reaching out to universities and labs for independent testing of its product.

They plan to start testing the lights in May and hope to take orders as early as July. They envision installing the light systems in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics and offices.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 218689

Reported Deaths: 2855
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah41723618
Washington27764258
Marion24459332
Clackamas19888241
Lane14804174
Jackson12522155
Deschutes1052887
Umatilla950594
Linn624882
Yamhill506281
Klamath494179
Douglas446188
Polk429357
Josephine413675
Malheur366467
Benton345322
Jefferson249342
Coos230439
Columbia208132
Union167124
Wasco154631
Lincoln153522
Crook139224
Hood River125934
Morrow122317
Clatsop116310
Baker109317
Curry77912
Tillamook7495
Grant5627
Lake4878
Harney45811
Wallowa2286
Gilliam871
Sherman862
Wheeler421
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California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 3944933

Reported Deaths: 64386
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles129358324677
Riverside3079224659
San Bernardino3062735236
San Diego2950543798
Orange2817905143
Santa Clara1230832099
Sacramento1152001777
Kern1130711425
Fresno1044581746
Alameda958261282
Ventura835231043
San Joaquin769151460
Contra Costa75842832
Stanislaus657091091
Tulare50363854
Monterey44484528
San Mateo44477588
San Francisco40144561
Solano35703262
Santa Barbara35647467
Merced32961484
Sonoma32665330
Imperial29096745
Placer25146307
Kings23611250
San Luis Obispo21970265
Madera17024249
Santa Cruz16616207
Marin14825239
Yolo14801215
Butte13184205
Shasta12963242
El Dorado11063120
Napa1042082
Sutter10159126
Yuba698551
San Benito627463
Lassen588127
Tehama586466
Nevada535075
Humboldt504553
Mendocino468351
Tuolumne449573
Lake423865
Amador387048
Siskiyou256140
Glenn246427
Colusa235718
Calaveras230758
Del Norte16438
Inyo145338
Mono13255
Plumas7656
Modoc5737
Mariposa4987
Trinity4626
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Alpine890
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