Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Triethylene glycerol is a colorless, odorless liquid used in myriad ways including as a finishing agent for different textiles and as an ingredient in lubricants and wallpaper stripper. But that makes it sound like a dangerous chemical compound. It’s also commonly used to produce the artificial fog prevalent at concerts and Las Vegas production shows.
And by the way, it kills virus particles. The COVID kind.
The Grignard Company based in Rahway, New Jersey, has produced a first-of-its-kind continuous antimicrobial air treatment called Grignard Pure that kills more than 98% of coronavirus particles in the air, and on January 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved an emergency exemption request for the use of Grignard Pure “as an additional tool in limited situations to aid in the fight against COVID-19” for Georgia and Tennessee state governments.
Ross Mollison, founder of Las Vegas-based company Spiegelworld and producer of three variety shows on the Strip, is hoping Nevada will also get approval to use the new antiviral product, which could be applied not only to Vegas showrooms and theaters but could also aid the return of meetings and conventions and other events and gatherings crucial to the state’s economy.
“It sounds like a miracle hair elixir, but the EPA is saying it works and it’s being tested in Broadway theaters,” Mollison said. “If it gets approval in Nevada, it has enormous applications, from malls to casino floors to places like ours.”
Most Vegas shows use some sort of fog effect during performances because it enhances lighting design and atmospherics. Mollison said the Grignard Pure is essentially the same product Spiegelworld has been using for years and he’s hoping his company will be one of the first to prove its effectiveness in Las Vegas.
“We shoot off fog for the entire show so we [wouldn’t be doing] anything that different from what we normally do,” he said. “The CDC said at the outset of this [pandemic] that the rate of transmission is less likely in humid environments. Humidity pulls the virus [particles] to the ground. This actually kills it. And the really good thing about it is that it’s been approved for use with audiences for decades. It’s not like you’re putting some new chemical into the air.”
When Spiegelworld reopened “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace in late October after an eight-month layoff, the company had installed other new safety measures at the show’s Strip-side venue including an ionization air purification system, non-touch temperature checks for audience members, an antimicrobial application for floors and other surfaces and frequent testing for cast and crew.
But the show could not continue performances for long when the state installed new restrictions limiting audiences to just 50 people in November. With the local vaccination effort growing and infection rates going down, Mollison is hoping those restrictions will loosen soon, and that Grignard Pure can be approved for use in Nevada to create the safest possible live entertainment events for Vegas visitors.
“Our plan is to get all three shows back onstage as quickly as we can and we’ve been working with our partners and in constant contact with those companies, who have all been incredibly supportive,” he said. “This is another thing that goes into the pot of good news, all these innovations and things that add up to make it safe for employees and guests. That’s what we’re all about, getting Vegas back to being Vegas.”