CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago inventor reached out to us, boasting about his little light gadget that will zap germs in your purse.
We did a double-take, because we have heard this pitch before – and the claim, both times, that the devices will protect you from the coronavirus.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: Statewide Coronavirus Cases Drop For Second Consecutive Week
On Monday, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey shed light on this supposed miracle light.
“Check out this bulb,” said Fam Mirza. “Wow, did you see the violet on this?”
Hickey’s interview with Mirza, chief executive officer of the Illinois company Mirza Minds that makes the sleek-looking pendant, got personal – and quickly.
Mirza: “Would you like to save your grandmother’s life?”
Hickey: “And you think your product can do that?”
Mirza: “Do you want to save your grandmother’s life, Megan?”
Hickey: “Absolutely. But do you know that your product can do that?”
Let’s go back in time. We were surprised when we got a news release for the “Puregem,” a device set to “revolutionize” the tech hygiene industry – according to its creators.
That is because in the spring, Mirza already spoke with CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman while peddling a very similar UV light invention.
And she poked some holes in his pitch.
Zekman: “Your public relations person said you thought it would halt the spread of COVID-19.”
Mirza: “We can’t say that, no. That’s a pretty crazy claim.”
That mini-ultraviolet light that was the subject of that earlier story back in May apparently no longer exists.
But now, the website for Mirza’s new product, Puregem – complete with typos – claims it will destroy the germs inside your filthy purse.
“It only works when it senses there’s no light in the purse, so it only works when it closes,” Mirza said.
And the website, the press release, and Mirza himself repeatedly point to a COVID-19 connection – a 2020 Columbia University study that found a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light works against human coronaviruses.
Hickey: “It kills the coronavirus, according to your testing?”
Mirza: “Well no, we’re still in line for the coronavirus, but all the stuff that we have back already, um, it kills very similar infections, yeah – so bacteria infections, fungi.”
Professor Jim Malley Ph.D., an expert in UV disinfection at the University of New Hampshire, warned, “So you got to be really careful with that sort of broad claim.”
Malley said us a certain dose UV light has been shown to kill COVID-19. But a product like Puregem would need to be thoroughly tested before it could responsibly make that kind of connection.READ MORE: Judge Rules Prosecutors Can't Show Kyle Rittenhouse Link To Proud Boys At Trial In Kenosha Shootings
“Well, it’s stylish. It’s kind of sexy looking. It’s got fancy little diodes, you know,” Malley said.
Puregem provided a graph showing testing with six kinds of bacteria or fungi. When we asked for the source of the study, we were told they didn’t have it.
And there’s more.
When we reached out to the author of the Columbia University COVID-19 study listed on the same page with the company’s test results, he told CBS 2 the graphs Puregem provided were reproduced without permission.
He also said the study refers to viruses in airborne aerosols, not on surfaces like purses.
And the quote on the Puregem website – according to the doctor who wrote it – is “not really relevant to their product.”
Hickey: “How can you ask someone to pay for something and tell them it’s going to protect them against a potentially deadly virus if you don’t know for sure that it works?”
Mirza: “Okay, okay, so what about your grandmother?”
Hickey: “Why do you keep saying that I want to kill my grandmother?”
While the product is not on sale until January, Mirza says they already have deals with a long list of retailers.
“This particular product will be carried in CVS, Walgreens, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth, Macy’s,” he said.
Sure enough, the company’s press packet lists more than a dozen others.
We asked Mirza about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that “the primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person-to-person,” not necessarily touching the surface of an object.
He told us this: “It’s not true. Those studies are not true. Whoever said that, I’ll call you out on this. I’ll call you out on this thing. There’s no way.”
But again, the scientist who he quotes in his press release told us his study is about airborne virus. It has nothing to do with surfaces.
Also, he does not endorse the product.
So what about the gross germs in purses? The Puregem light is supposed to be 99.9 percent effective.
Professor Malley said from the limited testing data provided, the conditions for those tests were not representative of how the device would actually be used.
As noted, Mirza also told us nearly a dozen big companies like Macy’s and Nordstrom were supposedly going to sell the Puregem light. We reached out to all of them, and we heard back from several.
Not one said it has plans to sell it.MORE NEWS: Hundreds Of Cars Roll Through Downtown For Second Night To Celebrate Mexican Independence Day
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