Science behind sanitizing airplane cabin air has advanced but was too late for coronavirus

More than four decades after state and federal epidemiologists showed how easily viruses spread from person to person on airplanes, the novel coronavirus has decimated global aviation. Daily passenger screenings are down 95 percent, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Though there have been significant advances since the 1970s, and airlines spent weeks touting the safety of flying and their steps against the coronavirus, passenger cabins still pose a danger for the spread of infectious diseases, experts said.

It is a problem of biology, physics and pure proximity, with airflow, dirty surfaces and close contact with other travelers all at play.

Breakthroughs are possible, researchers said. Ultraviolet lights that promise to destroy viruses without hurting humans are being tested by Columbia University scientists, who say the lights would be effective in airplane ­cabins, airports, hospitals and schools.

“As we speak, there are 100 hairless mice being exposed for 15 months,”

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