Fear of infections from contaminated surfaces has spawned a clutch of ultraviolet devices designed to kill pathogens, as companies try to keep pace with customer concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. These devices use Ultraviolet C (UVC) radiation in a closed space to disinfect items such as newspapers and delivery packages, which many people fear carry contagious viruses and bacteria.
According to companies involved in selling such products, customers can range from regular users to food delivery platforms and e-commerce firms.
“We were looking to create a solution for delivery and e-commerce companies. One of the reasons people weren’t ordering from Zomato, Swiggy, etc., was the trust issue with package handling," said Arpit Chhabra, co-founder and CEO of IoTfy, an Internet of Things firm.
IoTfy has developed a backpack fitted with UVC lights inside. It is running pilots with some delivery firms right now, and selling to retail consumers through its website. Its GoCo Bags for delivery platforms allow a consumer to turn the UVC lights on before a delivery is made, by pressing a button on a mobile app.
Godrej Security Solutions has created a UV Case which comes in three sizes—15 litres, 30 litres and 54 litres. Users can place newspapers, mobile phones and other objects in the case for a few minutes to sterilize them. Mehernosh Pithawalla, vice-president of Godrej Security Solutions, said the UV Case is certified by the Central Scientific Instrument Organisation (CSIR), which is a body approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for certifying such devices. Chhabra of IoTfy said the company has applied for certification for its GoCo bags, too. The company is working on integrating UVC cleaning in air conditioners (ACs) next and expects many ACs next season to come with such technology built-in.
There are other firms in the fray, too, like Bengaluru-based Minion Labs and its UV Saaph, a portable disinfection box.
There are studies indicating that UV light can be used for sterilizing surfaces. “Theoretically, these products work by using ultraviolet lights to kill microbes like viruses and bacteria," said Rajesh Maheshwari, chief executive officer, National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB). “I don’t think they pose a threat to humans as they are concentrated on a particular surface. It is not like a person is sitting and you have UV light continuously exposed on the entire room," he added.
NABCB is the accreditation body for third-party agencies responsible for quality certification of certain low-risk medical devices. Quality of high-risk devices are directly looked at by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation. The ICMR has designated two institutes under the CSIR and three under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to certify UV-based products.
However, there seems to be no regulation for UV-based surface disinfectants. “UV light products do not come under medical device regulations. This product is like surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers. Just because you expose a surface to the UV light does not mean it will kill all viruses and bacteria. Medical disinfectants are considered drugs but not surface disinfectants," a senior official at Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation said.
“Right now, there are several Chinese products mushrooming in the market which speak about UVC technology," said Godrej’s Pithawalla.