Published on August 2nd, 2020 📆 | 4532 Views ⚑0
Groundbreaking technology could help Dolphins beat COVID-19 — and their opponents
The Miami Dolphins’ No. 1 advantage over their competition in 2020 might not be their star rookie quarterback or their new-look coaching staff.
Rather, it might be the air they breathe.
The Dolphins recently became the first franchise in football to install a series of futuristic devices throughout their team headquarters designed to wipe out the coronavirus before it lands on a surface or ends up in their players’ lungs.
And they are using one of the safest — and most natural — disinfectants on the planet: ultraviolet rays.
Over the coming weeks and months, a company called Healthe Lighting — which includes Dolphins owner Stephen Ross among its investors — will retrofit the team’s facility with a series of UVC lights and filters that can eliminate virtually all of the coronavirus in the environment.
“From my perspective, and a whole bunch of people I speak with regularly, this is the best tool we have today [to fight coronavirus],” said Fred Maxik, Healthe’s founder and chief technology officer. “We can go in and clean, we can go in and scrub, but at the end of the day, the first sick person that goes into that space, that space is contaminated again. The systems that we’re deploying are systems that are cleaning in real time and cleaning constantly. We reduce that [pathogen] load that’s in that space to the maximum to we can.”
Healthe’s multi-level system is designed to zap away the virus in the air, on players’ lockers and even on their uniforms — and it’s all completely safe, researchers say.
How so? Maxik — whose technology is aboard the International Space Station, cleans Seattle’s Space Needle and helped saved the trapped Chilean miners — and his team have found a way to utilize a certain UV wavelength that doesn’t negatively impact human skin or eyes.
It’s called Far-UVC, or 222 nanometers, and while developers have known of the wavelength’s potential for years, it took a pandemic for developers to truly tap into its promise.
“It’s a well-proven, extremely safe technology that is underused and often misunderstood,” Edward Nardell, professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases, recently told NPR. “No one doubts the efficacy of germicidal UV in killing small microorganisms and pathogens. I think the bigger controversy, if there is any, is mis-perceptions around safety.”
Healthe already has begun installing a series of ceiling devices inside the Dolphins’ locker room called troffers, which are ceiling devices featuring HEPA-Carbon activated filtration with UV sanitization. Essentially, the mechanism sucks in infected air, runs it through a filtration system and blasts it with UV, and then spits it out essentially pathogen-free, the company says.
In all, 40 of these devices will go up around the building. But that’s just the start. The plan is to also install UVC downlights that will constantly kill viruses and bacteria in the air and on surfaces. And ultimately, everyone who walks into the Dolphins locker room will have to pass through what’s called a portal, which looks a bit like an airport scanner and will kill the vast majority of pathogens on players’ uniforms.
Fewer pathogens mean a smaller risk of infection — which should help keep Dolphins players healthy and available to play on Sundays.
“If we learn of ways to make our facility cleaner and safer for our players, coaches and staff, then we’re going to implement them,” Ross said. “The technology surrounding the troffers, which uses HEPA-filtration with UV light to inactivate 99.97 percent of airborne virus, was eye opening to me in terms of what can be effective in creating a cleaner environment.”
Healthe insists this is a cure-all for COVID-19. Mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing should remain part of the team’s mitigation approach, Maxik said.
It is. The Dolphins have also added a new (second) locker room with Plexiglas between each locker and placed hand sanitizers placed throughout the building.
But the UVC technology should provide an extra, and perhaps best, line of defense.
Healthe hopes other NFL franchises will follow the Dolphins’ lead, but for now, Miami is the only organization in the league using this technology. And if they get through the season without a major COVID-19 outbreak, their lighting system could be a big reason why.
“There are a lot of good practices out there,” Maxik said. “We should wear masks, we should wash hands. We should distance. But at the same time we want to go back and reoccupy the spaces we’ve built in the ways we’re used to. The best way to deal with that is to start utilizing light to become both anti-pathogenic as well as clean air and surfaces.
“It’s been proven for decades to be very capable of doing that and I think we have to reenter and look at some of that research and work to figure out ways to deploy it within our environment in a much more substantial way.”
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