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Decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) and quartet musical instruments


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While I was confined during the first occurrence of the pandemic in France, I started to look as many of us about info on how the pandemic would affect our work and what could be done , should be done. I had fellow in Asia starting decontaminating instruments, nut it was done finger in the wind. That did not really suit me , finding somewhat reliable information that did not just scratch the surface of were sales peach , turn out to be challenging . Ultimately I decided in April/May to write a paper aimed at my peers aimed to help them setup there decontamination process if they chose to, so
So  I wrote a paper about Decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) and quartet musical instruments, meant to fellow Luthier, and I start sharing the paper in may with a few colleges and send it to a couple violins association during the summer.

As far as fomite cros-contamination is concerned,  It might comes to you as a surprise but even back in Match/April some of the infectiologists I contacted , while acknowledging that CoV virus family  could be transmited via fomite,  that did not believe that fomite were a major vector in the current  SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (none of the cluster they investigated at the time were  fomite related).. But here is a  small anecdote:  As one of them told me that I should be fine with manipulating violins. I ask If I would be fine sharing a respirator (mask) or a mobile phone,  and the answer was "of course not" , so I explained that violin was played chin and mouth  close to violin breathing on the violin with (sorry musician but we know as we clean them) projection from breathing on the instrument. He had not realized that , and then revised is statement...  Telling me that still making an UVC cabinet was an overkill and that an alcohol on a swipe would be fine.
So don't take for granted everyone know the specifics of your domain :p

As far as usage, I decontaminate instruments in between players trying them, and before giving them back after having worked on them.

 It should be noted that since I wrote the paper Dr. Anthony Griffiths, Associate Professor of Microbiology at Boston University’s School of Medicine did release a paper validating the radiation dose mentioned in my paper (to be more accurate he studied the radiation dose on SARS-CoV-2 , while I only use inferences from dose known for other Humand Covid),  it turned out that the dose I use was safe by a good margin.

Constructive criticisms and comment on focused on the paper are welcome,  but I would kindly request that you refrain from turning this topic in a political / polemical / thing about the Pandemic. 
My aim is not to convince anyone of something he does not believe in, but to provide some information so so widely available that you may use if you like.

Best F.

Decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) and quartet musical instruments v1.0.pdf

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This would be a trade magazine type article.

It's not a paper. It's not an essay.

Even so, there is a format that needs to be followed, included proper attribution to reference sources, including illustrations. 

If you use Wikipedia (which you shouldn't) - you still have to track down the original source and refer to it. Or - if the info is original to Wikipedia (unlikely), Wikipedia has to be properly accredited.

Don't refer to yourself in the first person - unless it's a blog. Use third-person.


However - let's start with the title:

"Decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) and quartet musical instruments"

You can't decontaminate a virus (that implies you "cleaned" the virus). You can kill/eradicate a virus (or any pathogen). You decontaminate a surface or materials.

"Quartet musical instruments" - is vague. Any 4 instruments can form a quartet, so how is that relevant? Are you decontaminating flutes? Clarinets?

Titles use capital letters - unless there's some particular reason not to.

An alternate suggestion:

The Use of UVC to Decontaminate String Instruments from SARS-CoV-2

...as I said...needs editing...



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On 9/5/2020 at 5:07 AM, lFred said:

...My aim is not to convince anyone of something he does not believe in, but to provide some information so so widely available that you may use if you like.

Best F.

Decontaminating SARS-CoV-2 (Covid19) and quartet musical instruments v1.0.pdf 647.25 kB · 31 downloads

Fred, I think your efforts to help your peers and colleagues is commendable. However, your paper should be completely revised in order to be helpful to your intended audience. You are not a scientist. From what you have written, you are a luthier, and should write from the perspective of a luthier concerning COVID-19, and the solution(s) you found to be both feasible and effective. Then provide details on how to go about decontaminating instruments and surfaces that you and your customers may be exposed to COVID-19 through contact. Include logistic constraints and precautions needed to keep people and instruments safe during the decontamination process.  I would start by writing an abstract for your COVID-19 decontamination paper (guide?).  I start every research project, report, memorandum, or white paper with an abstract.  Even if I won't be using an abstract in the final document.  Why? because it helps to focus my thoughts and put them in a logical order that is easy for readers to follow.  Here's the basic framework I use:

1. Develop a title that's descriptive and eye catching.  Rue's suggestion is a good example.

2. List Authors and affiliations. It is difficult to be both credible and anonymous.

3. Introduction sentence(s). What are you working on?

4. Following sentence(s). Why is this important?

5. Procedural sentence(s). What did you do?

6. Results sentence(s). What did you find?

7. Wrap up sentence. Where are going from here?

Next, write your introduction and how-to sections that include citations from credible sources.  Hyperlinks to full text articles would be the most helpful so that readers that are interested can take a deep dive into the technical details, while maintaining a paper short enough that folks that just want to know how to go about setting up and using the decontamination method you are recommending will take the time to read it.  You can conclude with a discussion section at the end.  


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I understood the word "paper" not restricted to formal scientific publication/essay,  but also as a text, a  column, an article.  Since this "illustrated text" was not part of a magazine but a standalone "paper' sent, the usage of "paper"  to describe it on this board looked right  to me.  "illustrated text" sounding  a bit  generic/weird  IMO..

About illustrations they are two  one from Encyclopædia Britannica and it is (credited) and the other one from one of the source linked in footnotes. (I should index it more clearly). I do not recall quoting Wikipedia.

As far as the first person is concerned,  I did not think the lack of formalism from a text initially meant to be read by colleagues with whom I'm having colloquial exchanges  would be an issue on a BB with an audience of amateurs and professional  of the  lutherie  where conversations seemed also rather colloquial.

You have a valid point a title like 
"Use of UVC to Decontaminate String Quartet Instruments from SARS-CoV-2" would be long,  but more self explanatory and correct (I will keep this in mind).
But I think that your suggestion of "
String Instruments" falls into the same pitfall as the initial title I'm not talking harps,  electric guitars etc.. 

Thank you for your feed back.


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Dear Jim,
If I understand you correctly,  (and summarize to the extreme) you think that: Luthiers don't really care about the why/how  and just want to know how make a uv cabinet.

Well from my perspective,  I did not feel I needed to explain (the intended luthier reader) how to make a cabinet (I state that  I'm confident  that the reader will make his own clever solution,  likely something more clever than the re-purposing a display cabinet that I did). What I knew on the other hand was that information  to "set" it  right  (distance/power/time vs radiation dose & particulars of UVC ) was not available.

I had seen colleague mimicking hospital room decontamination , and placing an UV light in the center of the room, with the violin behind glass . Or others thinking of using ultra low power handy devise. Both solution are useless, I tried to  provide them with the means to understand why.

Now from your feedback , I failed with you. May I ask what causes you trouble ?

I've read your recommendations

8 hours ago, Jim Bress said:

  I start every research project, report, memorandum, or white paper with an abstract.  Even if I won't be using an abstract in the final document.   Here's the basic framework I use:


I believe some of them were followed, some weren't and some aren't really applicable, but more to the point  I'm  really confuse do you recommend more formalism or less?
May be I did not understand the beginning of your answer about you wanting something more luthier /down to earth .


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No Not at all.  I know luthiers, amatuers (like myself) and professionals, want to know why and how something works.  My goal was to give you suggestions to help you produce a paper that would fulfill your intended purpose.  I agreed with everything Rue wrote, and decided to somewhat give you the same advise viewed from a different angle (metaphorically speaking).  The tricky part with advice over the internet is knowing when information should be filtered out, and when it should be followed, or at least attempted.



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Now a more direct answer to "feasible and effective".

There is nothing special really to my setup:   I have in the customer part of the shop a glass display cabinet holding  about 20 instruments. the lower part of this cabinet has sliding doors , this is where  I fitted 2 uvc tubes connected to a timer, I  place violin in between the two tubes. When a customers is finished trying  instrument,  I put each violin in the "UV box" for 2 minutes².. and that's all there is to it, I have enough space for 2 violins/time. 

It barely change anything in day to day, as it does not take  time and can be done once the customer leave if I chose to.

As explain one concern is the ozone generated by the tubes, I did not want to go into those calculations* and therefor advise to use "ozone free"  UVC tubes. If you can not (because the only thing that you can find is producing ozone light) I can provide you with corner table calculation,  that will be better that the vague (open the window/ after use)  recommendation given by the manufacturer of commercial air purifier using ozone generating UVC tube.

*because I could not cross referenced  sources on the amount of ozone produced by those UV light, and was only able to get  the value of (18mg per hours per W) from a an experimental measure.
²based on 15cm between the violin and the tube


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I did a quick read of the "paper", and it's very evident that it was not written, or proofread, by someone who has English as a first language. A lot of the errors are not only spelling/grammar errors, but they are structural errors from converting French thought to English. Two other things that stand out to me, as a person who was involved in industrial research, and safety for 34 years:

1) In the paper, you are referencing both Watts and Joules, and you do provide conversions, but it is a long route to get to the conclusion, and could be done better.

2) Safety issues:

You mention the question of putting the UVC light in the middle of the room, saying that instruments in glass cases would not receive any UV light. A lot of shops have instruments in racks on the wall. Some people might think that having the light in the middle of the room, for 2hours and 20 minutes,  would work for that. UVC light is an extreme safety hazard to eyes and skin, and having an un-shielded  light in the middle of the room would present a hazard to customers and employees, and absolutely should not be done.

Any cabinet with UVC light should have interlocks to prevent the light from being on while the cabinet is open.


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1) I welcome your suggestions
2) I see your point, the "While you might be tempted to"  followed "why it wont work"  might not be implicit enough.  I could have reinforce by  clearly  stating  "therefore you placing your uv source in the middle of the room will not be effective"
Now about  safety, this guide was aimed at professional who, use chemical, radiation source, highly volatile and flammable substances machine.
Still I do give  a fair, bold explicit and graphical warning  and go into safety consideration on page 3.

ps: not the scope of my article, but about  "extreme safety hazard to eyes and skin" .
depends what you imply by "extreme" during my research I found that it was relatively safer to use that other type of UV lamp, that the nature of the damages in cwere mostly superficial and not long lasting. (skin burn and cornea damage).
I'll refer you to a study made during an accident 90 min accidental exposure to UV-C radiation of 26 medical school students exposed to 700 mJ cm(-2) (in my set up it will means being at 15 cm of my tubes  for about an hour) At any rate looking a the blue light of a 20w tube for a few second  from a far seems of no concern.

 Unusual high exposure to ultraviolet-C radiation by Andrea Trevisan  1 , Stefano Piovesan, Andrea Leonardi, Matteo Bertocco, Piergiorgio Nicolosi, Maria Guglielmina Pelizzo, Annalisa Angelini https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17205632/
"In conclusion, to the best of our knowledge this is the first report of a number of subjects subjected to a very high and prolonged exposure to UV-C radiation due to a defective switching on of a germicidal Lamp system. Although the total irradiation was 100 or, more likely, 20 times higher than that recommended, only one subject showed severe lesions in the short-term follow-up (2 weeks since the incident). This implies that there is quite a larger-than- thought safety window between the highest irradiation and irra- diation that produces significant damage after acute exposure."


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Don't underestimate the damage that intense UV light can cause over time. "National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that the time of exposure to an intensity of 100 microwatts per square centimeter at wavelength 254 nanometers not exceed 1 minute". If an "outside a cabinet" UV protocol were attempted in a shop, exposure to employees could be in the hours per day range, and if the employees were closer to the lamp than the violins, the exposure could be magnitudes higher. It's irresponsible to not address this, and the use of cabinet interlocks.

"Chronic exposures to acute intense UVC can lead to cataract formation and retinal damage."



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I just wanted to jump in to defend IFred's contribution and apologize for not stepping up to offer some help with the English translation. He's been exemplary in getting his shop open and receiving musicians safely in his shop since our confinement period ended, and has been actively helping players and teachers with recording and video support as well, so he deserves a lot of credit! 

There are a lot of idiomatic phrases we get used to and take for granted, and in French "instruments du quatuor" is the usual term for "violin family" instruments, easier on the tongue than "instruments à cordes frottés" and it's easy to forget that translating it directly into English doesn't mean it will be understood by English speakers the way we mean it.  I'm overloaded with the "rentrée" ("back to school") at the conservatory at the moment, but when I get a chance, I promise to take a look and make some recommendations.

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