NEW ORLEANS — As we begin to reopen stores, restaurants and other businesses, mask wearing has become one of the most important tools in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
A face covering helps prevent your germs from infecting others.
But it doesn’t necessarily protect you from the Coronavirus.
Justin Hartenstein is Director of Development at the Metairie-based Oracle Lighting.
He’s working on a new kind of mask that uses UV light technology to sanitize and disinfect the air around your face.
“What we’re doing is using ultra-violet, germicidal, irradiation to neutralize live viruses, pathogens and other bacteria, including viruses like Coronavirus,” Hartenstein said.
There are two versions of the Antimicrobial Irradiation Respirator or AIR device.
“You would place our UV device on the face and then a mask would go over it. We also have a professional grade version that has filters integrated into it,” Hartenstein said.
UV lights have been used for years to sterilize medical equipment and purify water.
There’s even a UV product that kills germs on your cellphone.
AIR device co-inventor Troy Organo says they saw a real need for a device like this as the virus spiked in early March.
“It was basically like a light going off saying we really do need this out on the front lines as well as just every day to keep jobs going,” Organo said.
Doctors say UV light can damage your skin over time and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Hartenstein says the AIR device was designed to protect the person wearing it.
“All the LEDs, all the irradiation takes place going in the opposite direction of the user that’s actually using the mask,” Hartenstein said. “There’s no irradiation directed back to the user.”
Oracle’s AIR device is patent-pending. If tests confirm the device works, the company hopes to bring a consumer version of the product to market as early as this summer.
If Oracle gets the green light to sell the AIR device, it would be built and assembled at the company’s Metairie facility.