UV-C light device that could kill bacteria, viruses on ATM keypads

"The main thing for us was instilling consumer confidence and making sure that the person at that ATM knows that it's sanitized."

ByJustin Mendoza KGO logo
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Could this UV-C light device keep ATM keypads germ-free?
Genmega, an ATM manufacturer, creates a device using UV-C light to sanitize ATM keypads amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It says it can kill up to 99 percent of bacteria and viruses.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Automated Teller Machines have been around for more than fifty years and are used by many everyday. And ATM manufacturer, Genmega, created a device using Ultraviolet light to clean dirty keypads that contain bacteria and viruses. It could potentially be helpful amid the novel coronavirus pandemic especially since it's the flu and holiday shopping season.

"People don't want to touch things that other people have touched in an ATM, is something that you generally have to touch as well as you're probably taking out cash," said Mary Wisniewski, banking editor at Bankrate.

With some Bay Area banks temporarily closed, customers might have chosen to conduct their transaction at the ATM.

So, can you trust touching those keypads?

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Genmega is an ATM manufacturer which recently moved its headquarters from Hayward to Dallas, Texas.

It created Vscan, a device that sanitizes ATM keypads.

"The main thing for us was instilling consumer confidence and making sure that the person at that ATM knows that it's sanitized," said Wes Dunn who is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Genmega.

He says it can kill up to 99 percent of viruses and bacteria using Ultraviolet-C light.

He showed us how it works:

First, you insert your card.

Enter your personal identification number, then conduct your transaction.

Finally, take back your card, then Vscan disinfects the keypad in a single pass.

Andrea Armani, is a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California.

"UV-C kills bacteria and viruses by disrupting the fundamental RNA and DNA of bacteria and viruses, which then inhibits the bacteria and viruses from replicating," she said.

In a previous interview with ABC7, Professor Armani says UV-C light differs from ultra-violet's A and B by using radiation versus thermal treatment, but all can harm human skin.

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She says UV-C has been used as a disinfectant to clean air and water supplies.

So, is it safe for you to be around UV-C light?

"Because UV-C is potentially harmful to the skin, to the eyes etc., so we went to great lengths to find out what can we do to use UV-C to make sure that it's sanitized, but that the cardholders safe," Dunn said.

Dunn says Genmega developed safety mechanisms in Vscan to keep the consumer safe from exposure to the radiation.

And he says the device would stop scanning if it senses something in its path.

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The Food and Drug Administration told "7 On Your Side" in an e-mail:

"Manufacturers are responsible for producing products that do not emit hazardous and unnecessary radiation."

Dunn says the manufacturer is following FDA guidelines, and is awaiting approval.

Professor Armani thinks Vscan could be effective, but its efficiency should be monitored over time.

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"The challenge with this is that over time, any type of light ball will degrade," she said. "But if the UVC system, you know begins to become less effective, suddenly your bacteria and your virus particles are still living."

She says research is still being done if UV-C can eradicate COVID-19.

Mike Lee is the Chief Executive Officer at the ATM Industry Association. He told "7 On Your Side" in an email, it has unveiled hygiene recommendations:

Customer Guidelines such as Social Distance in the queue, sanitizing the fascia of the ATM, and sanitizing cash before dispensing.

Mary Wisniewski from Bankrate says another way of keeping yourself safe when using ATM's is to look for the "contactless symbol." It's where you use a mobile banking app and scan your phone, instead of inserting your debit card.

Its goal is to reduce your contact with the machine, but you will still need to touch the keypad.

Genemega says it's in talks of working with another ATM manufacturer of a major bank in the United States.

So, the next time you touch an ATM keypad, you might see Vscan cleaning it before your very eyes.

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