UV Helmet Sanitizers Are Questionably Effective Or Safe
Modern problems require modern solutions, and since there’s no part of the world that’s been untouched by the global coronavirus pandemic, this definitely qualifies. That, of course, means any number of dubious claims are coming out of the woodwork, ready to take your hard-earned cash away in hopeful pursuit of things that could theoretically enhance your health and/or safety. Take, for example, the GermBuster UV light ‘helmet sanitizer’ unit that MotorBike Writer brought to our attention.
The story goes like this: small company Lucky International reached out to MBW to see if they’d be interested in selling this product in their shop. Now, MBW did a little investigation, couldn’t find any website or other confirming info about the company or its product, and instead spent its entire post about this product mocking its press release, which you can read in its entirety here. To say that the product seemed questionable is a major understatement.
Rather than being simply a potential story of fools and their money soon parted, this tale offers the opportunity to broadcast actual scientific info about what UV lights can and cannot do against coronavirus, whether in helmets or on other hard-surfaced items we motorcyclists might use. Knowing what’s what can help keep more money in your pocket to spend on those sweet, sweet bike parts, after all.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, as of June 29, 2020, UV light probably kills SARS-CoV-2, which is the scientific name of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease we know as COVID-19. However, more research is needed, and anyone who tells you it’s been proven at this point is lying. Quite simply, very few people have actually tested it against this virus. It’s shown promising results against MERS, which is a related member of the coronavirus family, though.
A quick UV light spectrum explainer: Both the sun and special lamps can emit the three different types of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA and UVB are the ones we’re most familiar with as humans in the modern world, because they’re what sunscreen guards us against because they can cause both cancer and premature aging. UVC can destroy genetic material, which is what makes it both incredibly dangerous and also good at destroying both viruses and microbes when used in an extremely controlled way. The sun does produce it, but our ozone layer largely protects us from this type of light.
UVC lamps and robots have been sanitizing water, lab equipment, and publicly-used transit such as buses and airplanes for a long time. Per the National Academy of Sciences, there’s a certain degree of likelihood that it could destroy the novel coronavirus, but “most UV sanitizers have not been tested against the novel coronavirus.” TL;DR version: The NAS says there’s potential, but more research is needed.
Also, it’s worth noting that UVC light is not widely used in hospital and healthcare settings at this time, per the NAS. What about good old-fashioned sunshine? UVA and UVB lights do not destroy viruses quickly, so sunlight is by no means any type of cure or preventive treatment for COVID-19. While going for a long ride on a sunny day can definitely help with our mental health, it’s not doing anything useful with regard to the virus.
UVC lights can damage your eyes and skin very quickly, which is why specialist training is required for operators. The World Health Organization saw so much troubling misinformation about using UV lights to clean your hands or other body parts that it even created an infographic to warn people about the potential harm.
It can be used to clean surfaces under extremely controlled conditions, and there’s also very preliminary research currently underway from Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research to test the effectiveness of a very specific wavelength called far-UVC against viruses and bacteria in public indoor settings, such as airports and schools. However, it’s extremely dangerous for human skin and other important parts of your body, such as your eyes.
Safety and effectiveness of any UVC products designated for use on surfaces, such as cell phones or motorcycle helmets, is not proven in any way, shape, or form at this time. In other words, you could be purchasing an expensive, dangerous paperweight instead of a preventive healthcare appliance. Save your money, your eyesight, your skin, and your misplaced hope.