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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With concern that COVID-19 may be transmitted through the air, Henderson Engineers are utilizing technology to help make indoor settings a little safer by disinfecting air that circulates through HVAC systems.

The Lenexa-based firm has engineered a way to retrofit existing industrial HVAC systems with ultraviolet light, which can kill pathogens that drift upward in tiny, airborne particles.

“What it does is clean the air with each pass,” Henderson Engineers Director of Engineering Dustin Schafer said. “So, as the air goes through the space, through the ductwork, up into the air, the handler gets clean and disinfected and then it gets put back into the space.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ultraviolet radiation is a “known disinfectant for air, water and nonporous surfaces” that has “effectively been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria” and “may also be effective in inactivating” COVID-19.

“For it to work, the UV light has to be exposed to the air for a sufficient time,” Schafer said. “We’ve sized it for really high exposure, so at a single pass we get an activation.”

The UV lights do not replace the need to wear masks or social distance, but retrofitting existing HVAC systems can be helpful and is significantly less expensive than replacing entire HVAC systems with added UV lights.

“This does matter,” Schafer said. “This is the single most popular question we are getting from our clients now. School districts, hospitals, office buildings, those are probably the most interest we have had.”

The company recently installed the system at its own headquarters in Lenexa.