New York transit agency launches UV light pilot program in effort to kill Covid-19

UV light lamps are used on a subway train in an attempt to kill Covid-19. By Taylor Romine and Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

(CNN) -- The agency in charge of public transit in New York City announced a pilot program using ultraviolet light lamps to kill Covid-19 on buses and trains and at stations.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Tuesday night that it will use "150 dual-headed mobile devices" from Denver-based start-up PURO Lighting to determine the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the UVC light technology, the agency said in a press release.

UVC, which is one of three types of light on the UV spectrum, is proven to eliminate Covid-19 and is most potent against viruses and bacteria, PURO Lighting said. PURO noted that their lamps also have UVA and UVB as well for full spectrum disinfection.

The first phase is set to launch on subways and buses and at transit facilities by early next week, the MTA said, and if successful will expand to Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad trains in a second phase. The two railroads serve New York City's suburbs.

The lamps will be used during the overnight shut down on subway trains and periods where transit is out of service.

"This is a first of its kind pilot when it comes to transportation agencies around the world and we are proud to be a part of it," said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye. "For nearly three months, the MTA has worked relentlessly to disinfect our entire fleet of subways and buses but we've always promised that we would explore any and all new approaches available to us as well. The launch of this UVC pilot represents a promising next step in our ongoing efforts to identify technologies that can keep our customers and employees as safe as possible."

For the first time in its 115-year history, New York City deliberately shut down its entire subway system overnight starting May 6 to clean all its cars.

A scientist will examine the efficiency of the lamps

The MTA touts that UVC light is "an efficient, proven, and effective technology for eliminating viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19" and has been demonstrated to kill viruses in hospital operating rooms, urgent care clinics, universities, and fire stations. The first phase will focus on the rolling stock of cars, stations and yard areas, the MTA said, as well as occupational facilities, crew rooms and other shared areas.

The disinfecting lighting lamps use high-intensity, full-spectrum UV lights that can be installed on a ceiling or wall, according to a press release from PURO Lighting. Photos from the MTA show the units mounted on poles in the middle of the car. The unit disinfects both surface and airborne pathogens and eliminates up to 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, according to PURO Lighting.

The MTA also noted that the agency asked David Brenner, the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, to examine the efficiency of the lamps. This week, Brenner reported his test showed UVC light eliminated the virus that causes Covid-19, and is working to conduct additional testing for peer-review publication, the MTA said.

The MTA started working with PURO in mid-March to test the ability of the light technology as part of an effort to find efficient cleaning solutions for the subway. The agency also has been looking at using antimicrobials to disinfect and prevent virus growth for longer periods of time. Foye said in an interview with PIX11 on Friday that they are continuing research with antimicrobials, which is "very promising," and they expect "some positive news in the short term."

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