What is HEV light and how can it eliminate bacteria in our homes?

The bacteria in our homes. 

While the surfaces in our homes may look clean, they’re usually far from it. Microorganisms are everywhere, and constantly multiplying by doubling as quickly as every 4 to 20 minutes.  

And though many of these microorganisms are harmless, or even beneficial for our health, there are some that are pathogens, which are bacteria that can cause disease. 

Bacteria under a microscope with a character saying 'oh no', a blue light turns on and bacteria shrinks

What are some common pathogens?  

Some of¬†these¬†harmful¬†pathogens have everyday household names, like¬†Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and¬†Escherichia coli¬†(E. coli), because¬†they‚Äôre¬†just that ‚Ästeveryday household bacteria.¬†¬†

In fact, two to three out of every ten people carry S. aureus. And while Staph is oftentimes harmless, if it gets into the body through an open cut, it can cause infections that are potentially severe, or even terminal.  

It‚Äôs easy to assume bacteria are avoidable¬†‚Ästsimply stay away from dirty places and you‚Äôll never cross paths with harmful¬†pathogens, right?¬†But, unfortunately, that‚Äôs¬†not¬†always¬†the case.¬†¬†


Where are pathogens found?  

The kicker is that these pathogens thrive on surfaces and objects in our homes, so material items like our phones, keyboards and sponges are the real culprits when it comes down to how we pick up diseases from certain bacteria.  

In a recent¬†study¬†conducted by¬†paediatric¬†infectious physician Stephanie Fritz, MD,¬†at Washington University in St. Louis,¬†it was discovered that¬†the¬†objects in our homes play ‚Äúan active role in helping spread the bacteria from one family member to another.‚Ä̬†¬†

What‚Äôs more, the results¬†of testing concluded that,¬†‚Äúin several cases, the household item was the only possible source of contamination.‚Ä̬†¬†

What that means is that the objects we need for everyday life, the ones that we’re constantly using, have bacteria growing on them continuously. And those bacteria are spreading from objects to family members within our homes. 

It seems like an impossible feat to keep these material items clean if we’re picking them up consistently throughout the day, while bacteria are ever-multiplying. Thankfully, there are technologies that exist to help us tackle that feat and mitigate the growth of bacteria.  

LIFX Clean light turned on showing common places it can kill bacteria - the kitchen, bedroom, gaming or bathroom 

What is HEV blue light? 

In order to combat the ever-growing pathogens in our homes and on our personal items, maintenance of disinfection is key.  

In 2007, University of Strathclyde researchers in Glasgow, Scotland patented visible light disinfection after discovering that a specific wavelength of light could eliminate bacteria such as Staph and E. Coli after certain lengths of exposure.  

This wavelength of light is called high-energy visible (HEV) light. Since its discovery, antibacterial lighting has become increasingly present in places like food manufacturing facilities and medical environments. 

HEV emits light that sits at the lower end of the light spectrum, between 405nm and 450nm, which is why it looks blue to our eyes. In the figure below, HEV light can be seen on the spectrum, just above Ultraviolet (UV) light. 
Though UV sanitizing light and HEV light are close on the spectrum, they’re quite different in the way they affect living things. But more on that later.  


How does HEV light eliminate bacteria? 

Now that we know what HEV light is, how do we know it can mitigate the growth of bacteria in our homes?  

Inside the cellular walls of bacteria exist a molecule called porphyrin. In fact, porphyrins are in humans and animals as well. They’re what make our blood look red in color, and plant’s leaves look green. However, their uses vary widely within different organisms and microorganisms, as each living thing has evolved to modify porphyrins to fit their specific needs.  

Within living bacteria, porphyrins are able to absorb certain wavelengths of light in order to process it for a variety of natural reactions. However, scientists have discovered that when porphyrins absorb 405nm wavelengths, they react by causing oxidative damage, which destroys the bacteria’s cell membrane. This causes the bacteria to die.  


Is HEV antibacterial lighting safe?  

So now we know that HEV can be dangerous to germs and eliminate them through exposure at certain lengths of time. But what about humans? How do we know HEV lighting is only dangerous to pathogens and not humans, or the things we love like our pets and plants?  

Though 405nm wavelengths can cause oxidation damage in bacterial cell membranes, research has shown that other organisms are much less susceptible to this oxidative reaction because they have natural repair mechanisms. That means HEV lighting won’t cause harm to humans and their loved ones.  


HEV light as a disinfectant in comparison to UV sterilization.  

As mentioned before, UV antibacterial light and HEV antibacterial light are close on the spectrum. UV light, which ranges from 100nm to 400nm, however, is invisible to the human eye while HEV light is outside of said range and falls within the visible spectrum.  

UV light can be broken out into three future categories (UV-A, UV-B, UV-C). UV disinfecting light has been proven to provide successful and efficient antibacterial effects on objects and surfaces, particularly UV-C light. Likewise, UV bacteria killing light has a much quicker antimicrobial effect than HEV lighting. 

However, all UV wavelengths are significantly dangerous to human eyes and skin.  Meanwhile, HEV lighting is both germicidal and safe for use in the presence of humans, pets and plants and (unlike UV-C disinfection) requires no protective measures. 


Benefits of HEV disinfectant lighting over alternatives. 

Unlike any other cleaning product, HEV is a germ-killing light that provides continuous disinfectant capabilities. While common home cleaning products like sprays and wipes are efficient and effective, they only eliminate germs during the time of their physical use.  

But, as we’ve covered previously within this article, bacteria are endlessly multiplying by the minute. To successfully fight against the spread of harmful bacteria within our homes, maintenance is key, which is something only HEV lighting can offer.  

To top it off, bacteria have shown to become resistant to products like soaps, wipes, and sponges when they’re used routinely. Research hasn’t shown any sign of bacterial adaptation or resistance to HEV lighting.  

So, unlike other cleaning products, LED house lights with HEV capability can provide continuous germicidal effects that bacteria won’t be able to fight against.