Making Schools Safer with UV-C Disinfection

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, educators and school leaders continue to work tirelessly and find innovative ways to navigate the new normal. As schools look to reopen and stay open, superintendents and directors of facilities are focused on strengthening disinfection protocols to make classrooms and school facilities safer. 

Teachers’ and parents’ top concern: school disinfection plans

A recent survey revealed that 76% of teachers are worried they might get infected with the coronavirus at work, and 77% of parents are worried their children might get infected at school. And when asked about what public health safeguard was most important, 84% of parents and 90% of teachers indicated daily deep cleaning and sanitizing of school facilities are essential. 

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reassure parents, teachers, and staff that schools are safe to return to, school leaders are taking steps to enhance disinfection.  

Schools turning to UV-C disinfection 

In addition to adhering to CDC recommendations, school leaders are looking to the healthcare industry for disinfection best practices, including their use of UV-C technology. Hospitals have some of the highest disinfection standards in the world, and UV-C has been a critical part of their multi-modal approach to reduce the spread of disease for decades. A study by Duke Health researchers revealed that using UV-C led to a decrease in hospital-acquired infections. Also, several preliminary studies have found that it can lead to an inactivation of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. While UV-C has been a proven technology trusted by hospitals to reduce the spread of infection, many school leaders are hearing about it for the first time. 

What is UV-C? 

UV-C is a specific form of ultraviolet light with a wavelength from 200-280 nanometers. It destroys or inactivates bacteria and viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, E. coli, and influenza — by disrupting the molecular bonds of their DNA and RNA. Basically, the UV-C ray breaks through the outer membrane of microbes like yeast, mold, bacteria, viruses, or algae. When the radiation reaches the DNA and RNA, it destroys both – disrupting vital cellular function, like replication and prevents these microorganisms from infecting humans.  

The UV-C wavelength, invisible to the naked eye, is a natural component of sunlight but is entirely absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere. For more information, check out 6 commonly asked questions about UV-C and evaluating the efficacy of UV-C

Why is UV-C an ideal disinfection solution for schools?

Like hospitals, school facilities are dynamic environments serving large groups of people with many high-touch surfaces that require frequent disinfection. With the variety of room types and surfaces schools will need to disinfect and frequency, UV-C is a practical option due to the high efficacy rate, ability to disinfect both surfaces and air, and minimal application time and effort.

According to R-Zero Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Wade, the former head of Cal/OSHA and a leading expert on environmental risk management, toxicology and microbiological and chemical contamination, “UV-C is extremely effective at sanitizing air and high-touch surfaces. Air and high-touch surfaces are what’s spreading the virus, and what we need to be concerned with.” Due to low touch time, ease of use and maneuverability, portable UV-C devices can be integrated into existing workflows with no additional staff or extra PPE required.

In addition to providing a critical layer of air and high-touch surface disinfection needed to lower coronavirus and norovirus risks, UV-C also helps schools solve their unique disinfection challenges.

 Overcome resource challenges

There are many logistical challenges teachers and administrators face when it comes to reducing COVID-19 transmission in schools. Many schools are unable to hire additional janitorial or maintenance staff to implement heightened cleaning protocols, leaving much of the work to teachers to implement in their classrooms. In addition to cleaning and disinfection, teachers must implement and enforce additional safety measures, including mask usage and physical distancing for students.

The time between class periods may not be sufficient for teachers to adequately clean all high-touch surfaces between student groups in rooms where individualized materials are not available, including laboratory equipment, desks, and computer equipment.   

UV-C devices can disinfect a room in minutes, enabling custodial staff to clean and disinfect more classrooms in less time. Increasing custodial staff productivity helps the school district save on labor costs associated with disinfecting.

Augment manual disinfection

Manual disinfection is an important component of keeping the environment clean, but as evidenced by the hospital experience, it presents challenges. Overall, manual disinfection takes longer, is inconsistent, and hard to verify. A study conducted by hospitals revealed that hospital cleaning staff regularly miss up to 49% of high-touch surfaces. Even with the best of intentions, human error will always be part of manual disinfection.

UV-C’s powerful disinfection capabilities reach the areas that chemicals and wipes miss. For example, by applying and standardizing the use of UV-C, UNC Health care strengthened disinfection to dramatically reduce hospital acquired infections (HAIs). Based on the success, UNC Health care implemented the use of UV-C disinfection in all COVID-19 treatment areas.  

Deliver powerful disinfection that is non-toxic and eco-friendly 

While chemical disinfectants can destroy viruses, many are highly toxic when ingested and should not be used on children’s toys or surfaces that children will be exposed to. Some recommended disinfectants require dilution, mixing, pouring into spray bottles, and aerosolization using sprayers. It is imperative that janitorial staff or workers tasked with disinfection be trained on proper application techniques and safe handling of chemicals, adding an additional layer of complexity to disinfection protocols.

When using Germicidal UV-C, schools don’t have to worry about chemicals, overspray, or other substances that could have unwanted side effects. Additionally, UV-C disinfection does not cause damage to materials or food items, unlike many chemical disinfection methods. UV-C gives schools the best of both worlds: safely protects students and staff without harmful chemical exposure.

Bringing hospital-grade disinfection to schools

For the first time, schools can bring hospital-grade disinfection into their campuses on a daily basis. UV-C technology makes it possible for custodial staff to disinfect all of the areas they can’t see or reach in less time, creating the safest environment for students, teachers, and staff. While UV-C provides critical disinfection capabilities to combat the coronavirus, it will also help reduce sick days, long term.

Dr. Brent Clark, Executive Director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators and former superintendent, states, “I am extremely optimistic about germicidal UV-C as a whole-room disinfection solution for a school environment. Incorporating this hospital-grade technology into regular cleaning and disinfecting protocols will provide an added layer of protection for students and teachers, without the use of chemicals, which is critical.”

UV-C devices are eligible “disinfection equipment and services” expenses under the CARES Act. To learn how school districts are implementing UV-C into their daily disinfection protocols, contact us at sales@rzerosystems.com.

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