What is UV-C and how can it abate the effects of airborne mold spores on an asthmatic child?
A UV-C is a lamp installed in the HVAC system to radiate shortwave UV-C energy, which is supposed to help get rid of airborne mold spores. It also kills viruses and bacteria contaminating the air and contributing to the spread of various diseases (Reed 16). This property is especially important for kids with allergies and asthma as its occurrence in children has been on the increase for the last decade because of poor indoor air quality. A lot of studies demonstrate that airborne mold spores directly influence asthma aggravation (Kowalski 15). The installation of UV-C inside ventilation air dust systems is said to be much more effective and feasible than all other ways of reducing levels of mold spores. Acting like a pre-filter system, it removes dust mites (invisible tiny bugs that can be found in carpets, clothes, and other materials) and indoor mold that can appear even if all sources of moisture are eliminated. Thus, when UV-C lamps are present in children’s hospitals, they are aimed to kill airborne allergens before they affect children and exacerbate their condition. They are also reported to have another benefit as they remove the funky smell, which appears as a by-product of bacterial growth. This unpleasant odor can trigger an asthmatic attack (Lau 630).
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What mold spores may be affected through exposure to UV-C lighting? Which of these may occur in Missouri?
The exposure to UV-C lighting is supposed to kill a whole range of molds including (McDevitt 5763):
- aspergillus amstelodami;
- aspergillus flavus;
- aspergillus glaucus;
- aspergillus niger;
- mucor mucedo;
- mucor racemosus;
- oospora lactis;
- penicillium chrysogenum;
- penicillium digitatum;
- penicillium expansum;
- penicillium roqueforti;
- rhizopus nigricans (cheese mold).
In Missouri, you can find practically all the enumerated molds, but recently there has been a growing concern about the exposure of the population to one of the most dangerous types of mold spores called black mold. This type is poisonous and there is now no evidence on how its inhalation can damage human organism (besides standard allergic effects) (“Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services: Mold” par. 4)
Is there a risk reduction from the use of this system or is it a great marketing tool?
When we hear companies claim that using UV-C lamps you can battle mold spores, it sounds very appealing for potential consumers. Besides being attractive as modern technology, it also gives hope to families that have members suffering from asthma. However, if you come to think of the real effects of the lamp, you realize that it is far from being as miraculous as it is promised to be.
UV-C is told to destroy the DNA of a mold spore, which ostensibly leads to sterilization. However, this light can work only if it is held a couple of inches from the surface and needs about 10 seconds to affect it. If we speak about air sterilization, the lamp is not effective at all as it does not work at a distance (Hayward 41).
Besides, the continuous exposure to UV-C is harmful to all living organisms as ozone that they emit ruins lungs, skin, eyes, and the immune system.
Thus, I believe that this system may sound very promising but it is still more of a marketing tool than a real panacea for killing mold spores. Many people resort to it as they tend to believe that modern medicine is moving in quantum leaps, and all the technologies that appear contribute to health improvement. However, it is crucial to remember that determination of various businesses to make money outpaces health care system development.
Hayward, Keith. “UV LEDs Light the Way for Disruptive Technologies.” Water21 (2013): 41-42. Print.
Kowalski, Wladyslaw. Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation Handbook: UVGI for Air and Surface Disinfection. Berlin, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media, 2010. Print.
Lau, Josephine. “Ultraviolet Irradiance Measurement and Modeling for Evaluating the Effectiveness of In-Duct Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation Devices.” HVAC&R Research 18.4 (2012): 626-642. Print.
McDevitt, James J. “Characterization of UVC Light Sensitivity of Vaccinia Virus.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 73.18 (2007): 5760-5766. Print.
Reed, Nicholas G. “The History of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation for Air Disinfection.” Public Health Reports (2010): 15-27. Print.