Seriously Sound Science™
Common Threads: Media, Science, Technology, and Other Magic
May 2020: The COVID-19 Chronicles
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant
United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) wrote in a series of articles for Harper’s Weekly (collected and published in 1914 as a book titled Other People’s Money—and How the Bankers Use It, now available online in its entirety):
“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
At the time, this was a metaphor for combating corruption by demanding transparency in finance and in government.
“Public opinion is a sort of atmosphere, fresh, keen, and full of sunlight, like that of American cities, and this sunlight kills many of those noxious germs which are hatched where politicians congregate. That which, varying a once famous phrase, we may call the genius of universal publicity, has some disagreeable results, but the wholesome ones are greater and more numerous. Selfishness, injustice, cruelty, tricks, and jobs of all sorts shun the light; to expose them is to defeat them. No serious evils, no rankling sore in the body politic, can remain concealed, and when disclosed, it is half destroyed.”
Behind the metaphor there is, of course, sound science behind the advocacy of sunlight as a disinfectant.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, in early March 2020 a friend and former client contacted me and asked some rather good questions about the possibility of preventing the disease by using ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of respiratory filter masks, which were becoming scarce.
My background is in researching and developing electronic industrial and consumer products, and I have done some innovative work with power systems that are battery-operated. I also have some recent experience contributing to the development of a medical device, and have gained familiarity with regulatory challenges in that area.
I documented the results of my research in a feasibility study. In short, I reported:
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