Ultraviolet Light 101: What to Know About Combatting COVID-19

Ultraviolet light (UV) has been used to kill viruses and bacteria for more than 100-years. As employers are looking to create safe workspaces and give their employees peace of mind, many are considering installing UV or germicidal lighting.

Let us DECODE it for you. Here’s what you need to know.

Ultraviolet Light Comes in Three Forms

Ultraviolet light comes in three forms based on wavelength: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. While it is produced naturally by the sun, UV-C and UV-B are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere.[1] This means people typically only contact UV-A rays, which cause sun burn and increase the odds of skin cancer without precautions like sunscreen.

Artificial Ultraviolet Light Has Long Been Used as Disinfectant

Ultraviolet light commonly disinfects air, water and food, and has been implemented widely by the water treatment industry and hospitals.[2] With the onset of COVID-19, and no vaccine insight, many lighting industry experts expect UV light to support strategies to eliminate virus transmission.

Ultraviolet Light Must Be Used Properly to Be Safe

Ultraviolet light is invisible to the human eye, and prolonged exposure can have serious health consequences. However, mercury vapor and LED lamps create an easily-accessible artificial option. Proper installation and maintenance are critical to safe usage and protecting employees.

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A Proven Virus Killer, Key to Reducing Transmission

Ultraviolet light is effective against viruses and bacteria. It damages the microbe cell’s DNA and prevents them from replicating, essentially making them “inactive.”[3] It has effectively combated MERS[4], SARS and Ebola in the past[5].

Ultraviolet Light Products Come in All Shapes and Sizes

From small handheld devices to the mobile robots to lamps as large as cars, these products come in all shapes and sizes. A customized lighting solution helps business owners select the products that best fit their facility.

Installation, Retrofitting in HVAC Systems Will Play a Key Role in COVID-19 Fight

A recent study suggests COVID-19 stayed in aerosol droplets for up to three hours and several days on various surfaces.[6] UV lighting installed into HVAC or upper rooms can reduce the odds of transmission by purifying the air in enclosed workspaces. In most cases, retrofitting ultraviolet light products to the current HVAC system will be possible. An additional benefit is ultraviolet lights can extend the life of your HVAC system by preventing build up and reducing energy usage.

An example of a standalone ultraviolet lighting tool

Credit: UV Angel 

Buyer Beware: Fake Products Hitting the Market

Just like when LED technology exploded on the scene, the market is being flooded with ultraviolet light products, some vetted, others not. Sadly, some sellers will try to take advantage of the need created by the COVID-19 crisis with inferior or even fake products. It is good to be skeptical, but better to work with a lighting expert to find the ones that work.

Effective for Hard-to-Reach Surfaces, Chemical-free and Fast

More effective at disinfecting hard-to-reach spaces than manual cleaning, UV light offers a quick, chemical-free process. A customized UV lighting solution will more effectively clean large facilities in less time. These include hospitals, office buildings, hotels, fitness centers and airports.

Ultraviolet Light 101 infographic

[1] https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/tanning/ultraviolet-uv-radiation

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/scientific_committees/scheer/docs/citizens_uvc_en.pdf

[3] https://aem.asm.org/content/82/5/1468

[4] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology/article/efficacy-of-an-automated-multiple-emitter-wholeroom-ultravioletc-disinfection-system-against-coronaviruses-mhv-and-merscov/B067FCFF88142FD9ECBCCD6AE13C7CD6/core-reader

[5] https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51914722

[6] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-coronavirus-spreads-through-the-air-what-we-know-so-far1/