It’s now September, which means one of the Emirates’ flu seasons is right around the corner. That’s right folks, that time of year where a single sneeze causes panic. Parents worry about their kids. Managers are frustrated with employee absence. Hospitals receive more and more patients. We lie in bed all feverish, blow our noses for the 177th time, and painfully reach out for our cup of tea. We wonder: how could a species that found cures to so many illnesses still have trouble with something so silly as a common cold?
Why Are Viruses Dangerous?
Here’s a simple answer: viruses are constantly mutating, which means that the smallest change in their genetic makeup renders last year’s vaccine completely useless. Besides that, all it takes is a single viron to find its way into your body, latch onto a cell, and replicate.
We get a cold in one of two ways: surface contact or airborne infection. Contact infection is relatively easy to mitigate; using hand gel regularly to sterilize your hands is one option. But what can we do to protect ourselves against airborne viruses? We certainly can’t wear masks all day.
Airborne viruses are difficult to deal with for two simple reasons: they are tiny, and they are very mobile. For example, the contaminants from a single sneeze can remain suspended in the air for as long as 45 minutes. This, along with the fact that air conditioning constantly recirculates the air, gives viruses plenty of time to spread in a room. Given enough time, a person sneezing in the opposite end of a room can potentially infect every one of its occupants. What makes the situation even more troublesome is that viruses can attach themselves to dust and water droplets already present in the air, providing them with yet another means of transportation.
Is There a Solution?
So… how are we addressing the issue? Some air conditioning units incorporate HEPA filters, but even the most efficient, medical-grade filters can only trap matter and bacteria as small as 0.3 microns. That is, nearly all viruses will pass through unobstructed.
There is good news though. Even though viruses can’t be caught with existing filters, they can be neutralized. One of the most promising neutralization methods involves a principle called photocatalytic oxidation (PCO). PCO occurs naturally, but has found use in human applications since the late 20th century. NASA had a problem: fruits and vegetables naturally produce ethylene throughout their life cycle, and its build-up in spacecraft could pose major issues to astronauts. This would clearly be an obstacle for future journeys.
Along came PCO. The basic idea involves a substance called a catalyst (a chemical reaction booster) and ultraviolet light. When UV light hits a catalyst like titanium dioxide (TiO2), millions of hydroxyl ions (OH–) are generated. Hydroxyl is one of the strongest naturally-occurring oxidizing agents known to science. What that means is that it can decompose virtually any organic matter that it comes into contact with. That’s right, viruses, bacteria, mold spores, volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde are not so invincible after all.
You might be wondering: If hydroxyl is so dangerous to organic matter, wouldn’t it be dangerous for me? No – since free hydroxyl radicals only last a fraction of a second (and a minuscule fraction at that). A well-built device generating hydroxyl is both safe and crucial for ridding indoor air of all the nasty stuff floating about.
Who You Can Talk To
Fortunately for UAE residents, this technology is no longer exclusive to NASA. Radic8 has developed a range of products aimed at tackling contaminants that other devices simply can’t protect against. Nano Level is Radic8’s exclusive partner in the UAE.
Find out more at www.nano-level.com/products/.