Now, more than ever thanks to COVID-19, people and businesses are scrambling to find ways to incorporate medical-grade sterilization methods into their daily operating procedures.  Once reserved for laboratories and hospitals, germicidal UV lights are offering a new way to ensure that you can create and maintain a safe working environment. UV light sterilization is a fast-growing and invaluable option for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. You can keep your facilities safe and clean without missing a beat.  And, with COVID-19 maintaining a hold on the general population, having medical grade disinfecting devices is essential. 

UV light sterilization creates a sanitary working environment and acts as a powerful disinfectant, but it can be confusing to figure out what UV light device is right for you and your facility. We’ve put together a small guide to help you navigate this relatively uncharted territory.

 

How UV Light Sterilization Works

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For the majority of the population, UV light is recognized as something to be feared. It’s the same reason that your skin burns after a day on the beach. And, it has direct ties to skin cancer. But UV light isn’t all bad. In fact, under the right circumstances, as with a UV light sterilizer, it can actually be quite helpful. 

UV light is so effective at killing viruses and bacteria for the exact same reason why it’s so dangerous to humans. Ultraviolet (UV) light kills cells by damaging their DNA. The light emitted by these specially engineered LED bulbs catalyzes a reaction between two molecules of thymine. Thymine is one of the four DNA bases, so it’s essential that this molecule function at full capacity to support the cell. 

After exposure to UV light, thymine molecules become unstable and begin to break down. Typically, as with a sunburn, cells can repair this damage without too much hassle. But the longer the genetic material is exposed to UV light, the more irreparable the damage becomes. The more this happens, the more likely it becomes that the cell repairs itself incorrectly. And, once that happens, the cells lose functionality and die out.

 

UV Light Sterilization & LEDs

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Basically, UV light kills cells because of an accumulation of DNA damage. So, how is this applied to LED lighting? Scientists figured out how to engineer LED lights to produce UV rays. They also realized that concentrating these rays would lead to a higher rate of damage, and therefore a shorter disinfection period. 

Increasing the potency of UV lights obviously makes these lights even more harmful to humans, and any living creatures ( plants included). However, there are many, many extremely safe ways to use UV light sterilization. We’ll go over it in more detail a little later, but you’ll just have to trust us for now.  

And so, LED UV light sterilizers were introduced. Available both as large scale lighting options and small UV light sanitizing bags and boxes, these allow for much faster and more effective cell degeneration. LED UV light sanitization kills up to 99.99% of germs by destroying the DNA of both viruses and bacteria.

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Why Should You Use UV Light Sterilization?

Despite the fact that this technology is not new at all, it was discovered in the 1870s, UV light sterilization is suddenly becoming incredibly popular. Whether it be the rapid spread of Coronavirus or advancements in technology that make it more attainable, more and more businesses are turning towards hospital UV lights to take care of sanitary precautions.  

Powerful UV light has been regularly used to decontaminate surgical tools and hospital rooms for years.

 A study that included 21,000 patients, who stayed overnight in a room where someone had been previously treated, found that sanitizing a hospital room with UV light in addition to traditional methods of cleaning cut transmission of drug-resistant bacteria by 30%. This is partly because UVC light can effectively sanitize hard-to-clean nooks and crannies, but also because it is more effective than your standard disinfecting methods. 

UV light sterilization may only seem necessary for hospitals and other healthcare facilities, but in reality, they’re quite useful across a multitude of industries.

Productivity

UV light sterilization devices are easy to operate and incredibly fast-acting. This means that employees can focus less on properly cleaning and sanitizing their work environment and more time actually working.

Effectiveness

Even if surfaces are thoroughly cleaned by hand, there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes. UV light sterilization devices remove human error from the equation. When you use these, you can rest assured that 99.9% of viruses, germs, and bacteria have been removed from every surface.

Safety

As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, health and safety in the workplace becomes more and more of a risk. UV light sterilization ensures that your facility is a safe space for your employees to spend their days.

How Are UV Light Sterilization Devices Graded

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Because this is an emerging technology, there isn’t any organization that sets the standards for these products as there is with your standard LEDs. Instead, you should use the manufacturer’s performance measurement methods to determine for yourself whether the UV light sterilization device is effective or not. 

The four primary ways that manufacturers use to test effectiveness are:

  • Dose-response models
  • Tests conducted in microbiology labs
  • Environmental effectiveness tests
  • Clinical outcome studies

However, all testing methods are not created equal. We’ll briefly go over each one below and point out any pros and cons of the testing method so that you can identify whether a UV light sterilization device has been tested properly or not. 

 It’s almost important to take note of the setting of most of these tests. They often predict sterilization effectiveness, specifically in hospitals. This is because hospitals are the largest market for these devices. In reality, UV sterilization devices can be and are used in many different settings. But due to their rigorous sanitary standards and the need for complete and total disinfection, hospitals are a good control.

Dose-Response Models 

As mentioned earlier, the majority of these lights are much more concentrated than the rays of the sun. This is partly due to the inherent nature of LED bulbs. But it is also intentional because it makes the UV light sterilization devices more effective.

 In these tests, UV-dose is measured, then used to estimate device effectiveness in hospitals. For instance, a study might start off with one million microorganisms on a test surface. Then, it would measure the number of microorganisms left after being treated with UV light for differing periods of time.

This may seem straightforward, but these predictions are only as accurate as the model used to estimate them, and the dosimeters used to measure UV exposure only pick up a certain type of UV light.

Microbiology Lab Tests

This is the most common method of testing for consumer-based UV lights. Microbiology lab tests measure a rate-of-kill for several different pathogens under strictly controlled conditions. These tests give an accurate prediction of a UV sterilization device’s effectiveness and allow the testers to compare different products. 

However, similarly to the dose-response models, these tests can be compromised. If the testing laboratory doesn’t specialize in microbiology, or if there was simply a mistake with the control group, results can be significantly skewed.

Environmental Effectiveness

Unless you’re looking for UV sterilization lights for a hospital or other healthcare facility, these tests won’t apply to you directly. However, they are still worth noting because as we stated earlier, these settings require some of the highest sterilization standards that there are. 

Using this method, hospital rooms are swabbed before and after a UV light sterilization device has been used and the results are recorded. These are valuable because they provide real-world insight but they don’t account for human error and other environmental factors. In addition to this, hospital rooms are usually extremely clean and don’t necessarily represent a good starting point for other facilities. So while these tests are somewhat good for predicting real-world results, don’t expect to achieve the exact same ones as the studies.

Clinical Outcome Studies

These are the most accurate and reputable tests to predict UV sterilization device effectiveness, but they are also some of the most difficult to conduct. Clinical outcome studies require a great deal of time, planning, and resources. But, when done correctly, you can expect realistic results. 

A clinical outcome study examines areas where a reduction in infection rate can be directly attributed to UV sterilization devices. If you’re looking for UV light sanitization solutions for an industrial or commercial facility, we suggest focusing on peer-reviewed scientific studies conducted in this manner.

But, the reality is that every manufacturer uses different methods to measure results. For this reason, it’s more important to pay attention to how the test was performed and by whom it was done than the actual test itself.

Where Can UV Light be Used?

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UV light sterilization devices can be used as an infection control method for almost any setting. From flat, hard work surfaces to water, the efficiency of UV light sterilization enables it to work in a variety of different situations. 

An obvious avenue for this type of UV lighting is in hospitals. There is the obvious use, as a way to disinfect patient and operating rooms between uses, but there are also some less obvious applications. Hospital construction and renovation is a daunting task. The primary concern of any hospital-related construction project is to minimize the spread of pathogens to patients. And, in this situation, UV light sterilization creates a standard that more traditional cleaning methods just can’t meet. 

But that’s not all. UV light sterilization devices are cropping up in other industries as well. Packaging and shipping facilities are installing hospital UV lights as a way to keep their workers healthy and continue operations, safely during the pandemic. And, schools and offices are buying UV lights for the same reason. Even gyms and sports stadiums have begun to use UV light sterilization as a disinfecting method. The bottom line is, that if you have space for the light, you can use these devices.

How Can UV be Utilized?

UV light sterilization helps make work environments and large facilities safer and hygienic. However, precautions do need to be taken when using these powerful lights. The UV rays that they employ to sanitize surfaces are the same UV rays the sun emits. These rays are harmful to humans and animals in large doses, which means that hospital UV lights can be extremely dangerous to people. 

To prevent any unnecessary risk, the best practice is to simply use the lights at night or another time when the facility is empty. You can also run the lights on a lunch break or at any other period where the space is empty.  But, as long as you ensure that there are no plants, animals, or humans in the room when the light is in use, there is no danger associated with UV light sterilization. 

One way to ensure that employees and others are protected from UV light sanitizers is to install them with motion sensors. This way, if someone does enter the room by mistake, the lights can immediately shut off and prevent any harm.

What Type of UV Light is Best?

The three main types of UV rays are UVA, UVB, and UVC. Because UVC rays have the shortest wavelength, and therefore highest energy, they are capable of killing bacteria and viruses, also called pathogens. UVC light has a wavelength of between 200 and 400 nanometers (nm). It is highly effective at decontamination because it destroys the molecular bonds that hold together the DNA of viruses and bacteria, including “superbugs,” which have developed a stronger resistance to antibiotics.

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The majority of UV light sterilization devices use UVC light as the source of their disinfecting power. UV-C light is extremely effective for sterilization purposes, but as we mentioned, is harmful to humans and animals, or any genetic material for that matter. These rays are damaging because the 254 nm wavelength that hospital UV lights emit can penetrate the outer layer of the skin and eyes and harm the cells beneath. 

Recently, far UVC lights have emerged as a safe alternative to the more commonly used UVC lights. And, that’s because far UVC lights have a shorter wavelength of 222 nm, which cannot permeate the surface of the skin or eyes. They have the same powerful sanitization abilities as hospital UV lights without any of the risks. However, technology surrounding far-UVC lights is still advancing so for now, classic UVC lights are still your best option.

What Type of UV Sterilization Device Do I Need?

There are two main options to choose from, LED UV light sterilization bags & boxes or LED UV lights. The bags and boxes are much better for small scale needs. Think phones, keys, books, and small electronics. You simply place your items in the bag and in under five minutes, your items will be completely disinfected.

You can run these germicidal UV lights at any time because the harmful UV rays are contained in the box or bag. We recommend these for places like schools and offices where new people are entering the premises throughout the day. 

LED UV light sterilizers, on the other hand, are ideal for large applications. These are actual light fixtures that you install in the ceiling. UV light sterilizers are great for sanitizing large surface areas like factory floors or warehouses. These lights need to be run when no one is around because their rays will reach everywhere. We recommend installing them with motion sensors to ensure safe use, but as long as the room is clear while they are operating, you can quickly and safely disinfect the space.

UV Light Sterilization Devices- Easy & Effective 

Although UV light rays are harmful to us in large doses, they are actually quite useful. UV light sanitizers have been used for decades to decontaminate hospitals and other settings. But recently, their bacteria and virus-fighting power has been appreciated across many different industries. 

The key to choosing a UV light sterilization device is to know first, what you want out of it, and two, how effective this is. If you’re looking to sanitize small items in a high-traffic space, a UV light sterilization box or bag will be the most helpful. However, if you own a large commercial or industrial facility, where you need to sanitize an entire space, UV light sanitizing fixtures work best. 

When used properly these devices are safe and effective. They remove any human error from decontamination efforts and work much more quickly than other methods. Follow the guidelines given in this article, and you’ll find yourself surprised at just how easy LED UV light sterilization devices can make your life.

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