UV disinfectant manufacturers claim that their products can disinfect anything in minutes. Many say their disinfectants can kill up to 99.99% of the bacteria on any object you put into the device's UV radiation. But do UV disinfectants really work?
UV stands for ultraviolet, a type of electromagnetic radiation. The most common form of UV radiation is sunlight, which produces three main types of UV rays: UVA (which is associated with skin aging), UVB (which can cause sunburn) and UVC. UV disinfectants use UVC - the most energetic of the three.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), UVC radiation is "a known disinfectant for air, water and nonporous surfaces. In fact, the agency reports that UVC radiation has been used successfully for decades to reduce the spread of bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis. Although the virus they studied is different from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, the researchers recently published a paper in Scientific Reports showing that UVC radiation can inactivate at least two types of coronaviruses. To date, however, there is little data on the wavelength, dose and duration of UVC radiation that may be effective in inactivating SARS-CoV-2 viruses, according to the FDA.
Wall - Mounted UVC Sterilizer
UV rays have been used as disinfectants for many years. Some hospitals rely on them to help disinfect surfaces, and a large study published in The Lancet found that UVC light used in hospitals reduced the spread of four major superbugs by 30 percent.
While the evidence that UVC disinfectants can destroy novel coronaviruses is inconclusive, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine believe the technology should be effective. UV is effective against other coronaviruses, including the one that causes MERS, and the U.S. government continues to work with industry leaders to set defining standards for UV disinfection technology.
In addition, CleanSlate, a company that sells UV-C disinfection solutions to the healthcare, hospitality and food processing industries, released data in July showing that UV-C light can kill 99.979 percent of MS2 phages, an alternative to virulent human pathogens, such as as the novel coronavirus, in as little as 20 seconds. Since most commercial laboratories do not meet containment criteria for handling novel coronaviruses, we can perform such tests for now.
Many hospitals already use UV light to disinfect superbugs and have stepped up efforts in the hope that it will do the same for COVID-19. Duke University's hospital network has been using UV disinfection for years. And in 2017, a published study in The Lancet, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that UV disinfection can reduce 30 of the four most common superbugs, MRSA, VRE, Clostridium difficile and transmission%, with immobile bacteria, cumulatively.
Although UVC-C radiation destroys Covid-19, it should be used as a second line of defense against viruses and microbes because it is easier and more effective to wash your hands, wear a mask and maintain social distance.