Why Your COVID-19 Safety Strategy Is Incomplete Without UV Disinfection

By Eric Hansel, CLEP, MIES

My dentist is an absolutely fantastic person and someone who always seems to have the latest technologies the dental field has to offer. So, it dumbfounded me when this tech-savvy individual declined my offer to discuss installing ultraviolet lighting in the building’s air handling units as part of his COVID-19 safety strategy.

“Everyone does a thorough job of cleaning their workstations,” the dentist explained. “They wash their hands continuously, and a regimented process is followed before and after each patient.”

My dentist, unfortunately, is not alone in thinking that ‘once over’ cleaning of surfaces and hand-washing is effective enough to combat viruses or airborne illnesses, including COVID-19. Those are important mitigation steps, but it’s only part of the equation.

As scientists and health professionals are learning more about COVID-19, research is showing that COVID-19 is remaining infectious in microscopic aerosol particles that can remain airborne for extended periods of time.

That should cause anyone looking to provide a safe and sanitary environment to pause and consider a robust air disinfection strategy for their facility. It is a process that will continuously clean the recirculated air 24/7.

Why disinfect the air? Without it, you’re breathing dirty or germ-filled air over and over again throughout the day as it recirculates throughout your building picking up more particles and dirt.

Most people are under the misconception that a sneeze, for example, will only remain airborne for a short period, and then land on a surface. That’s not true. Micro-particles can remain airborne for an extremely long period of time.

Airborne transmission of infectious agents involves droplets that are expelled by sneezing or coughing or are otherwise distributed into the air. Although the liquid/vapor around the infectious agent evaporates, the residue (or droplet nuclei) may remain in the air for long periods, depending on such factors as particle size, velocity, force of expulsion, particle density, humidity, rate of air flow, and the microorganism’s ability to cause infection.

So, no matter how comprehensive your strategy is to provide a safe building for employees and guests, it should include UV lighting to constantly clean the air. If not, your efforts will be woefully under served.

Eric Hansel is President of Expert Lighting Group and is a Certified Lighting Efficiency Professional and a member of both the International Ultraviolet Association and Illuminating Engineering Society.