The cleanliness of the air we breathe and the surfaces we touch have a major impact on our health. And we’ll all come into contact with germs, especially in offices, restaurants, airports, and other busy places. This is on our minds more than ever before, even as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
A solution that might surprise you: Disinfectant lighting, specifically UV-C radiation, that can keep viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19) from multiplying on surfaces.
Read on to learn about the benefits, limitations, and opportunities of UV-C light sanitation for inactivating COVID-19 and other viruses.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible to our eyes; they’re between visible light and X-rays on the electromagnetic spectrum. There are three types of UV rays: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. Two kinds (UV-A and UV-B) are responsible for sunburns, premature wrinkling, and skin cancer.
UV-C’s wavelength is too short to pass through Earth’s atmosphere and reach our skin, so we can’t be exposed to UV-C simply by sunbathing. Scientists have been able to recreate UV-C radiation in a light bulb, and while direct contact with this light can still hurt our skin and eyes, it’s an effective way to inactivate viruses when applied safely (and away from humans’ eyes and skin).
UV-C radiation is a known disinfectant for air, water, and surfaces that can reduce the risk of spreading viruses and infection. UV-C light sanitation doesn’t kill the virus, but it does make it unable to reproduce.
On the electromagnetic spectrum, UV-C radiation ranges from 100 to 280 nanometers (nm). Research has found that UV-C degrades the genetic material of viruses and bacteria at an exposure of 254 nm, so they can’t multiply. When you correctly install a UV-C lighting solution, you can operate it with people present, as the device will have a shield to protect our eyes and skin from radiation.
UV-C light sanitation will benefit offices, gyms, stores, and more in the long run. Besides reducing COVID-19 infectivity, the disinfectant works against other viruses, like the seasonal flu. It may also help us better protect ourselves from viruses we don’t even know about yet — and outbreaks we’ll experience in the future.
There are a few limitations to UV-C light sanitation, including:
And as we mentioned above, UV-C radiation should never come into contact with your skin or eyes, as this could increase your risk of skin cancer or cataracts (just like exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun can do). This is especially true for any UV-C light sanitation that has a wavelength of 254 nm or more.
One way that manufacturers have worked around this issue is by installing UV-C solutions within air ducts for disinfected ventilation. This is one of the safest methods of disinfecting the air because it’s much less likely to cause exposure to our skin and eyes.
There are several types of UV-C lamps (or germicidal lamps). Some lamps emit a specific wavelength (like 254 nm), while others release a broad range of UV wavelengths. Still others emit visible and infrared radiation along with UV-C light.
A few types of UV-C lamps and lights you’ll find include:
When exploring your options for UV-C light sanitation for your office, school, church, or another application, you should ask your lighting manufacturer:
With people going back to the office, eating in restaurants again, and simply getting out and about more, manufacturers are looking for better ways to protect their customers from harmful pathogens. UV-C radiation can help them do just that, with its unique ability to disinfect and keep viruses from spreading.
While we don’t offer UV-C light sanitation products yet, we’re encouraged by early study results and look forward to the opportunity to provide even more lighting options that will help manufacturers better serve their customers.
Since 1971, Vista has helped manufacturers gain a competitive advantage by merging quality and innovative lighting products with cost-effective pricing and on-time delivery. To learn more, please contact us or connect with us on LinkedIn.