There has been a renewed interest in UV disinfection and UV sterilization technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, businesses are looking for ways to keep their customers and employees safe and healthy.
You may have heard of UV germicidal light and how it can help kill bacteria and viruses, but you may be unsure of how safe it is for the people in your facility. While all UV products have a certain element of risk for human exposure, there are ways to safely incorporate the benefits of UV light into your health and safety protocols.
What is UV light made of?
Ultraviolet light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun. UV light is delivered through wavelengths and frequencies.
What is UV?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation covers wavelengths in the 100-400 nanometer (nm) range. UV light is not visible and has shorter wavelengths than visible light.
UV radiation is divided into three categories: UVA rays, UVB rays, and UV C rays.
UVA wavelengths range from 315-399 nm, UVB from 280-314 nm, and UVC from 100-279 nm. The natural form of UV radiation is from sunlight.
What is a safe UV level?
Ultraviolet rays are technically never really safe for humans, especially when it comes to repeated or long exposure. Direct and indirect UV lighting can harm human skin or eyes. UV light is a powerful energy source and its properties make it dangerous to humans yet deadly to bacteria and viruses.
The U.S. UV Index Scale provides low to extreme ratings for sun exposure so you can avoid harmful UV radiation, yet even at a low UV Index reading there is still UV exposure danger. For example, the advice is that even at a low reading you should wear sunglasses if it is bright (as opposed to cloudy) outside and if you burn easily, you should still use sunscreen.
UVA and UVB rays are both dangerous to the human skin and UVA can cause skin cancer.
On the other hand, UV C light doesn’t harm human skin but can damage the eye cornea. It has the strongest germicidal properties and is the least dangerous for humans out of the three types of ultraviolet radiation.
UV light disinfection and UV light sterilization has been studied since the late 1800s and has been used to effectively kill bacteria for at least four decades. It has been used in hospitals and water treatment plants for years. On the residential side, UV light technology has been used for water heater and air duct sterilization.
UVC light works by breaking down the DNA and RNA of bacteria, viruses, mold, and spores so they are unable to replicate and spread.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of UV light?
Benefits of UV light
- UV light technology kills bacteria, germs, mold spores, and viruses.
- Depending on the UVC device, the technology can eradicate bacteria and viruses in the air and on surfaces, including airborne pathogens and airborne particles.
- UVC has been used for at least four decades for its effective disinfection properties.
- UV technology is available in all different types of devices so it can be easily incorporated into your cleaning schedule. This includes mobile units, air purification light fixtures, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) UV light devices. Mobile units move from room to room using ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses in the air and on surfaces. Air purification devices work to purify your facility’s indoor air by UV radiation at the location where you install them. UVC light devices used on your HVAC system sterilize the air as it moves through the HVAC unit and improves your building’s indoor air quality.
- Although UVC is unsafe for human exposure due to its potential to damage the eye cornea, it can be safely added to your facility’s daily disinfection routine.
Dangers of UV light
- UVC is unsafe for human exposure and should not be used when people are around.
Although UVC has been deemed unsafe to be used when humans are present, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the technology as part of a safe and effective cleaning schedule.
For example, you may consider using a mobile commercial UV light sanitizer that any cleaning crew can run as part of their disinfection routine. The crew would run the mobile device in unoccupied areas. Or you could install germicidal UV light fixtures in high traffic areas, but run them on a schedule. The spaces you are looking to disinfect can be blocked off before the devices are run.
You don’t want to avoid using UV sterilization technology for fear of the dangers of UV C light. Other types of sterilization technologies are not as effective – humans can avoid UV light disinfection device exposure, while bacteria and viruses cannot.
Can germicidal UV deteriorate materials or surfaces?
Yes, just like when you leave a plastic lawn chair out in the backyard without covering it, over time the chair will begin to fade, lose strength, crack, or fall apart. UV C rays are powerful and that is what makes them so effective.
When it comes to office materials, exposure from any type of UV lighting device doesn’t cause extensive damage since most of the exposure is not for extended periods. If UV disinfection is used for many years, you may eventually experience some cosmetic damage to some plastics but usually the structure of the item is sound.
Some materials cannot be damaged by UV radiation, such as some silicones, acrylic, and some types of glass.
Reap the benefits of UV light at your facility.
The folks at WattLogic have worked with lighting technology for decades and love working with facilities to get the solutions they need. If you would like to learn more about incorporating UVC radiation technology into your facility or would like more information on any type of UV light installation please watch our webinar, “Can UV Light Protect Your Facility Against Viruses?“ or contact us: (800) 834-8737.