Note: This is a technological chronicle. It is not intended to promote or sell any particular tool or product. ValkarTech is an independent consulting firm specializing in hygiene and sanitation. As such, we are interested in any new technology related to sanitation and are happy to share our findings.
As you may know, when you are a consultant and you do not sell any product, you sometimes get the chance to test several new devises. Last week, I had the opportunity to try out a very special lamp, which can illuminate the invisible!
As an ISSA certified professional auditor, I am always interested in all the means available on the market to verify the quality of sanitary maintenance and work techniques.
As we move through the pandemic, we are becoming more and more convinced that it is no longer enough to clean for visual cleanliness alone. We must now clean for health and to do that we must clean far beyond what we can see. We also need several options in our auditing and training toolbox to promote, verify, improve, and encourage sanitation teams. To do this, we use different types of audits.
We can choose from visual inspection, fluorescence audits, ATP audits that were featured in a previous column, and there are also the more innovative, less common, and less known tools that are emerging and will certainly become complementary tools for those who wish to clean for health.
It is important to understand that in order to clean for health, one must go beyond what is visible. My recent trial was a great proof of that statement!
For our experiment, we chose a place that had not been cleaned for a while but was still used from time to time. The sales representative hands me the device: it looks like a big camping flashlight, not too bulky. I have to say, I was a bit skeptical...
"Are you really going to make me see germs, biofilm and dirt with this instrument? Seriously!?!!” The sales representative immediately confirms that this lamp is made of several UV lamps of different wavelengths that allow to illuminate germs, biofilms, and dirt. Apparently, it will even soon be possible to determine which type of germs is detected on surfaces according to the color of the fluorescence emitted. All right, I am ready and willing to try it out; armed only with the lamp and my cell phone to take pictures that can testify to my observations.
Initially, you should know that all the selected surfaces seemed reasonably clean and would probably have been considered compliant during a traditional visual inspection. But in the invisible, a completely different reality awaited us... and as a picture is worth a thousand words, I will leave it to you to see...
It is in a mixture of surprise, disgust, microbiological fascination, questioning and the brain rolling at full speed that I thank the representative for having made me see beyond the visible, see beyond the reality! As soon as he leaves, I validate with my own personal equipment, my super 150 watts UV lamp, to check if it would not do the same thing...no, nothing lights up.
Now, how many cleaning techniques, tools and products will we be able to validate or invalidate with this new tool? To what extent will this possibility to see large areas, beyond the visual, so quickly and especially in real time, without artifice or complicated analysis, change our habits and serve to improve the quality of cleaning?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had the opportunity to analyze several new technologies allowing to "see" germs. Some of the devices were complicated and difficult to use...but this time, I firmly believe that for hygiene and sanitation training and workshops, for quality controls and for outbreak investigations (the detection of a contamination source), we will see this tool more and more often in the future. There are only a few drawbacks: it requires a significant amount of darkness to perform the validation, which is not always possible depending on the environment, and the cost is still significant, although reasonable if we compare it to the price of an ATP device or other solutions with similar principles.
This lamp is already being used in the food industry to search for contamination due to biofilms. I had the pleasure of holding the first generation of this fascinating lamp in my hands... Indeed, a new version with an integrated camera is in production. Now just imagine its usefulness in health care facilities, daycares and schools, residences for the elderly, etc.