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6 Commonly Asked Questions about UV-C Disinfection

The novel coronavirus pandemic has uncovered the need for enhanced disinfection solutions like never before. As a result, UV-C disinfection has seen a significant increase in demand – largely due to its high efficacy rate, ability to disinfect both surfaces and air without negative chemical exposure, and minimal application time and effort. While UV-C is a proven technology that’s been trusted by hospitals to reduce the spread of infection for decades, many are hearing about it for the first time and have questions. 

Over the past few months, we’ve been helping schools, hotels, sports teams, senior living facilities, and commercial real estate firms enhance their disinfection protocols with hospital-grade UV-C. Presented with the opportunity to speak with directors of facilities, heads of operations, school superintendents, and business owners daily, we wanted to share and answer the most common questions people ask about UV-C disinfection.

1. What is UV-C?

UV-C is invisible light at a wavelength between 200nm and 280nm. This particular wavelength has special germicidal properties, making it capable of inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold. Germicidal UVhas been used since 1910 in wastewater treatment, and since the 1920s and 30s for air and surface disinfection. Interestingly, while the UV-C wavelength is a natural component of sunlight, it is entirely absorbed by the ozone and atmosphere. 

2. How does UV-C disinfection work?

UV-C destroys or inactivates bacteria, molds and viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, E. coli, and influenza — by disrupting the molecular bonds of their DNA and RNA. UV-C is the gold standard for disinfection in hospitals, and there are over 100 years of established clinical trials proving its efficacy in destroying virtually all known pathogens on surfaces and in the air. Specifically, there are decades of research showing a significant reduction of hospital-acquired infections in hospitals that employ UV-C technology. In fact, to date, there are no known UV-resistant microorganisms (viruses and bacteria) on the planet.

3. Is UV-C safe to use around people?

UV-C is a powerful germicidal agent but can harm human skin and eyes if operators are exposed to high doses of UV-C. Prolonged exposure can cause skin irritation, like a mild sunburn or in some cases acute retinal damage. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) publishes permissible exposure limits for UV-C light. 

While a UV-C cycle can only be run in an unoccupied space, it’s safe for people to immediately re-enter that space, following a disinfection cycle. If evaluating UV-C disinfection products, note these systems should include built-in safety mechanisms to minimize risk and ensure zero exposure. 

4. Will UV-C fade or damage materials (carpets, furniture, drapes)?

While UV-C delivers enough energy to inactivate microorganisms, it does not produce noticeable or meaningful degradation of the materials within the environments you’ll use them in. UV-C light is not strong enough to damage furniture, carpets or drapes. Also, since UV-C cycles are short (5-10 mins), it will not accelerate color fading. 

To put “color fading” into context, let’s compare UV-C to sunlight’s impact on materials.  Technically, every material experiences some level of “photodegradation”, which is the accelerated aging of a material due to exposure to light. Certain pigments and polymers tend to be more susceptible to photodegradation than other materials, but the impact on even the most susceptible polymers and pigments is negligible. 

For example, if you leave outdoor furniture in the sun for a couple of consecutive summers, the materials may start to fade. However, sunlight, which is a much broader spectrum and more intense, is far more harmful to that furniture than UV-C. UV-C cycles are emitting less intense light for less time, so the impact is essentially non-existent.  

5. Is UV-C safe to use around food?

Yes. UV-C disinfects without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides – so is safe to use around food, including kitchen and restaurant environments. 

6. Will UV-C damage monitors, electronics or technology equipment?

No. UV-C will not damage computers, medical equipment, or other electronics. In fact, in the case of shared technology resources (i.e. iPads, computers), we advise leaving them out and exposed when running a UV-C cycle, to disinfect the surfaces. 

UV-C provides a new level of holistic safety

For the first time, organizations can bring hospital-grade disinfection into their spaces on a daily basis and provide an added layer of surface and air protection without chemicals. To learn more, you can also read how organizations are harnessing the power of UV-C for infection prevention and how to evaluate the efficacy of UV-C. And if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. At R-Zero, we’re committed to bringing hospital-grade disinfection technologies to organizations and sharing information to help evolve your infection prevention strategies. Please contact us at sales@rzerosystems.com.

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