When people think about ultraviolet rays, the first thing that probably comes to their mind is the sun, followed by ‘sunbeds’, ‘harmful’, ‘radiation’, ‘UV rays’, etc. In the recent past, due to the current pandemic, another aspect of UV light has come to the forefront – its ability to disinfect surface, air, and water of harmful pathogens. Though researches have been going on since many years over its effectiveness for disinfection, it has only gained momentum in 2020.
Over the past couple of months, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the importance of hygiene and creating a germ-free environment to ensure safety for all, and UVC sanitizers have been an important part of the conversation all the while.
Despite the rapid adoption of such products, many are still apprehensive about the effectiveness of UV-based disinfection methods due to various prevalent notions around it.
Let us explore the top myths / misconceptions around UVC sanitizers that people still believe and allow us to debunk those with facts.
First, let us understand what UVC actually stands for. There are three different levels of ultraviolet lights that are emitted by the sun – UVA, UVB and UVC.
Source: CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
The UV-A and UV-B portions of the sun’s ground-level UV spectrum are not very efficient in destroying pathogens. For UV sterilization, only UV-C has high enough energy to effectively kill microorganisms.
Devices that use UVC are contactless and come with built-in switches that can stop whenever they detect any movement, which means there’s no chance of exposure to humans and other living beings. On the other hand, you may also find some upper room UVC devices that can be used in the presence of human beings. These devices are typically seen in places that run greater risks of infectious diseases, such as hospitals, and are used to zap harmful pathogens from the air to create an overall germ-free space.
What’s more, researchers at Japan’s Hiroshima University have found evidence of a UV light wavelength that can be safely used around humans, while also being effective in destroying the virus group that causes Covid-19. The study further shows that “Ultraviolet C light with a 222nm wavelength (Far-UVC) is effective against SARS-CoV-2 specifically, not just similarly-structured coronaviruses that pop up seasonally and cause less extreme illnesses”.
According to Dr. David Brenner, a Columbia University professor, who has been conducting various research studies on UVC & Far UVC, “continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people”. He has further elaborated on this subject as the lead author of an in-depth study conducted on effects of Far UVC.
An NY Times article has further highlighted that ‘scientists consider indoor ultraviolet light to zap coronavirus in the air’, meaning it is possible to create a complete germ-free environment to protect oneself from diseases via UV sanitization; especially during the pandemic.
While continuous efforts are being made to ensure complete safety of humans around UVC, it never hurts to practice caution anyway. You can always rely on your UVC disinfection devices to do its job even in your absence in the space that’s being sanitized.
One of the biggest advantages of UVC light disinfection methods is that they are chemical-free. The belief that UV disinfection is chemical-based is false as UV sanitizers are another form of cleaning solution and not a base / container for chemical disinfectants.
A common problem with chemical-based cleaning solutions is that they can damage equipment, and corrode or destroy surfaces, as was the case with Boeing. They began testing hand-held UV wand sanitizers instead of chemical-based cleaning solutions that can neutralize bacteria and viruses while protecting important flight equipment. Rae Lutters, Chief Engineer for Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Program explained to Fox Business that UV wands “would eliminate the need for using alcohol or other disinfectants that could damage sensitive electronic equipment".
The high-energy from short-wavelength UVC light attacks the cellular RNA and DNA of disease-causing pathogens. It damages the nucleic acids in these microorganisms and prevents them from infecting and reproducing. The result – complete elimination of germs from your immediate surroundings.
Be it hospitals, manufacturing units, public transportation, household applications, commercial spaces, workplaces, or education institutions, UVC-based products can effectively remove pathogens without any hassle.
What’s more, even the FDA has confirmed that UVC based disinfection devices have been proven to “destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus, which is a different virus from the current SARS-CoV-2 virus. The destruction ultimately leads to inactivation of the virus”. The effectiveness of UV sanitization methods has been further explored in the Scientific Reports published by Nature.com, suggesting that “Far-UVC light (222nm) efficiently and safely inactivates airborne human coronaviruses”.
Germicidal UV lamps are part of the cleaning and disinfection segment. These products do not use any chemicals or harmful substances like some other cleaning methods that can be easily disseminated in the surrounding area. Unlike common aerosol-based cleaning methods, germicidal UV lamps don’t leave behind chemical residues or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them environment-friendly and safe to use.
The fact that UV disinfection methods are eco-friendly can be further understood from the way wastewater is disinfected using UV-based methods. According to the Wastewater Technology Factsheet published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), UV disinfection devices transfer electromagnetic energy from the lamp to the genetic material (DNA & RNA) of microorganisms. It attacks their cellular structure, and completely destroys their ability to multiply.
As we can infer from the previous statement, Germicidal UV lamps produce energy rather than chemicals, at an intensity that is strong enough to effectively eliminate harmful microorganisms, without affecting the environment.
UVC disinfection methods are fast, affordable, and highly effective. They are your best bet when it comes to ensuring a clean, safe, and healthy environment for not just yourself, but your stakeholders as well. The reason such devices are considered expensive is due to the innovative technology that is used to make them effective as disinfection systems instead of over-the-counter or industrial-strength cleaning solutions.
However, a one-time investment in UV sanitization products can make up for countless hours spent using chemical-based disinfection methods to clean different areas. With the former, you can easily get contactless disinfection solutions that ensure a germ-free environment at all times.
Moreover, UVC-based disinfection methods can further provide greater return on investment as they can significantly lead to fewer cases of infections acquired from being in closed spaces like healthcare facilities. The American Journal of Infection Control reported that focused multivector ultraviolet disinfection methods were effective in reducing cases of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) from medical equipment. It concluded that “Five-point multisided sampling proved effective for assessing disinfection performance on all exterior sides of equipment. FMUV produced significant overall reductions of the microbial burden on patient care equipment in all study phases and independent of manual cleaning and chemical disinfection”.
While scientists continue to work tirelessly towards their goal of creating a vaccine, we can do our part with UV-based solutions for sanitization and disinfection to tackle harmful pathogens that we may encounter on a daily basis. Nowadays, many organizations are turning to UV technology for their disinfection routines like MTA Subway, various international airports, retail stores, schools, and more.
Be it the air we breathe in or the things we come in contact with, let’s try to create a safer, germ-free environment with UV-based disinfection methods for a healthy future.