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NYC to utilize ultraviolet light to disinfect public transportation: 'The results have been very encouraging'

It's the first time the method has been used for this purpose

Passengers wear face masks and observe social distancing on the New York City subway on Monday. (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority is testing the use of ultraviolet light to disinfect subways and buses, which it believes could be more efficient than the current process of cleaning public transportation vehicles, ABC News reported.

Studies at Columbia University have shown evidence that UV light is effective against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which can live on a bus or subway seat for up to 72 hours, the report said.

"The results have been very encouraging," David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, said, according to ABC. "As scientists, we're going to repeat the studies, we're going to write them up for peer review. But it's certainly looking absolutely that UV light is very efficient for killing this virus."

The pilot program will initially cost about $1 million for MTA to purchase 150 UV lamps. The current process of cleaning subways, which involves sending cleaners every night to disinfect trains, reportedly costs "hundreds of millions of dollars." The UV disinfecting process would just require putting the lamps on the train, closing the doors, and turning them on.

If the pilot program is successful, it could be expanded to other public transit systems in the region. MTA CEO Patrick Foye said the method has proven to be effective in hospitals and other health care settings.

President Donald Trump has mentioned the potential effectiveness of UV light against the coronavirus, but was criticized for his suggestion that it be applied to people and not surfaces.

"So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful, light — and I think you said that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it — and then I said suppose you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way," Trump said last month during a press briefing. "And I think you said you're going to test that, too. Sounds interesting."

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