Safeology’s air purifier (left) is used in a classroom at Cedar Park Christian School in the Seattle area. (Safeology photo / Cedar Park Christian School)
A Seattle area lighting manufacturer has launched a range of UV lighting products designed to kill viruses and protect people – just as schools and businesses are preparing to welcome students and workers to a post-pandemic world.
“We have many commercial opportunities,” said Jim Mischel, Safeology CEO.
Everett, Washington-based Safeology emerged from Electric Mirror, which makes luxury illuminated mirrors and medicine cabinets for the hospitality industry. 90% of Las Vegas hotels have Electric Mirrors products installed, said Teresa Wenta, the company’s global director of marketing.
The company’s website describes how in January 2020, when the first U.S. COVID cases were diagnosed in Everett, Jim Mischel was thinking about ways to keep his newborn daughter and the community safe from illness.
Around the same time, his brother Aaron – the company’s executive vice president of sales – was out on business and saw the COVID begin to spread. When he returned to Everett, “my brother walked into my office and said, ‘You have to do this,'” Jim Mischell recalled. In March 2020 they founded Safeology as a separate brand division for electric mirrors.
The company’s background in the lighting business made it logical for Safeology to use UV-C lighting to fight viruses.
“It was a pretty easy transition,” said Aaron Mischel. “It’s just a lighting product.”
Safeology UV-C lights in an office environment. (Safeology photo)
UV-C lighting has been used for decades to reduce the spread of various microbes, especially in medical settings. Tests have shown that it destroys the outer protein layer of human coronaviruses, making them inactive.
One test found it was more than 99% effective at specifically stopping the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Airlines are already using UV-C lighting equipment to disinfect passenger cabins between flights. Honeywell and Boeing are among the manufacturers selling products in this market.
However, UV-C light can also be harmful to humans, causing severe sunburn and sometimes eye damage. Not all UV-C products on the market are safe, said Jim Mischel.
“There are a lot of gimmicks,” he said, “or products that are really dangerous to people.”
One of Safeology’s first steps was to create a scientific advisory team, including Dr. George Diaz, who diagnosed and treated the first known COVID patient in the United States. The experts helped them figure out how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus had to last exposed to UV-C light to be effective.
“We knew the technology,” said Aaron Mischel. “But it’s nice to have the real science behind the technology.”
Safeology has turned its product offering as more has become known about the virus.
Originally, the company offered a UV-C tower that could be used for sterilization in an empty room. This was because it was believed that the virus mainly spreads on surfaces.
As scientific understanding advanced and it became clear that COVID was a virus in the air, the company developed a portable air purification system that draws indoor air into a chamber where it is blasted with UV-C light and previously filtered through HEPA and carbon filters The air is returned to the room.
Not only does this remove COVID from the room, but any other virus, bacteria, or allergens as well, said Aaron Mischel. It’s also quiet enough to run while there are students or office workers in the room.
The portable filter system can be controlled via a smartphone app. “It is the first project I know of combining commercial mobile air cleaning with IoT (Internet of Things) infrastructure,” said Jim Mischel.
The company’s latest product is an upper room system that attaches to the ceiling and sends UV-C light rays parallel to the floor, creating a virus-free zone above the heads of people in the room. As the air circulates in the room, the light disinfects it.
“No matter what seasonal virus comes in, you could be at work with your light clearing the air above you,” said Aaron Mischel.
The Mischels say they “got off to a good start” with ordering their products, but “really need to educate people” about how the technology works.
Even if more Americans are vaccinated, there seems to be a demand for such products, Jim Mischel said. “People are scared and the vaccine isn’t easy.”