How UV light may protect us from the coronavirus

Mar 5, 2020

The stealthy new coronavirus has turned face masks into ubiquitous accessories, and that means millions of Americans are looking for ways to keep them clean.

Can ultraviolet light do the job?

Ideally, single-use face masks should be worn once and then thrown away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s certainly true of the top-of-the-line N95 masks used by healthcare workers that are designed to filter out 95% of tiny particles when properly fitted to a wearer’s face.

But last week, the CDC released new guidance on decontamination methods for emergency situations, such as the one healthcare workers are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Any disinfection process would need to kill the coronavirus without harming an N95 mask’s ability to filter particles or fit snugly to the skin.