You know that certain chemicals such as alcohol and bleach can kill certain bacteria and viruses. Scientists worldwide continue to research the effect of ultraviolet or UVC light on disinfecting and sanitizing. It could revolutionize how you prevent viral and bacterial diseases soon.
What is Ultraviolet Light?
Have you ever gone to a dark room and turned on a black light? You noticed that anything white in the room radiated with an eerie purplish glow. Black lights emit a lower form of ultraviolet radiation called UVA.
It’s one of the three types of electromagnetic radiation found in sunlight. The sun is a giant ball of burning gases that create electromagnetic radiation. This powerful force moves throughout the solar system in various frequencies and wavelengths.
These are things you probably remember from your high school science classes. Electromagnetic radiation from the sun represents a spectrum of seven different categories, from the lowest wavelength to the highest frequency and energy level.
These normal levels in order are radio waves, microwaves, infrared rays, visible light, UV (ultraviolet light), X-rays, and the highest gamma rays. The three levels of ultraviolet light lie between visible light and X-rays. The farthest wavelengths are UVC, the middle tier is UVB, and the lowest wavelength is UVA.
All three of these ultraviolet radiation levels are invisible to your eyes.
Effects of Ultraviolet Light
Have you ever noticed that you can always distinguish a person who has spent years bathing in the sun? Unlike UVC-light, which doesn’t break through the earth’s ozone layer, UVA and UVB are one of the reasons that overexposure to the sun can damage your skin. If you don’t use sunblock and practice sun-smart safety measures, your skin will also develop a leathery, wrinkled appearance as the careless sunbathers have.
UVA rays have a longer wavelength and can penetrate your dermis, the middle layer of your skin, while the shorter UVB rays can only sink through your epidermis, the top layer of your skin.
The only way you can be exposed to UVC rays is artificial, like lasers or the UVC lamps used in tanning devices.
Risks of UVC
Just because UVC light doesn’t penetrate your skin as deeply doesn’t mean it’s without risks. Direct exposure can cause skin burns and eye irritation. Fortunately, these usually resolve within a week or so.
Since some UVC sources also produce minute amounts of UVB, prolonged use may cause serious side effects such as skin cancer or cataracts. If you have asthma, allergies, or any other respiratory condition, exposure to UVC lights may exacerbate your symptoms.
Some of these light sources produce ozone, which is a source of irritation to your respiratory system. Chronic exposes to ozone can also make you more prone to respiratory infections and diseases.
The Positive Side of UVC Light
You won’t have to worry about going outside and being exposed to hazardous UVC radiation thanks to the atmosphere’s natural filtration system. When you avoid artificial UVC sources such as tanning devices, UVC radiation shouldn’t be a problem in your life.
In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein theorized the possibility of using radiation to amplify light. Throughout the decades, more leading scientists contributed to the development of LASER (Light Amplified by Stimulating Electromagnetic Radiation) technology. The various strengths of lasers range from printers and CDs to advanced laser surgery technology.
Laser diodes are a way to transform electrical current into light. They also produce UVC light, which you can’t see. Research into these laser types has demonstrated them to be a powerful source for sanitizing and disinfecting against viruses.
How Does a UVC Light Disinfect Things?
While using UVC light for sanitizing sounds like something from a science fiction novel, the concept has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Dutch physician Niels Finsen did a series of experiments using UVC light to destroy bacteria responsible for anthrax and lupus.
His experiments proved to be successful, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903 for his work with UVC lamps and tuberculosis. Finsen’s discovery opened a new dimension for the use of ultraviolet radiation to kill bacteria and viruses that cause many diseases. Later studies showed that UVC exposure can destroy the microbes’ DNA.
Just because there are positive correlations between using UVC radiation and killing harmful germs doesn’t mean you should enjoy limitless sun exposure. Remember that overexposure from the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation can damage your skin and cause skin cancer. Besides, the only way you can harness short UVC radiation is through artificial sources.
Since Finsen’s groundbreaking work on destroying viruses and bacteria with UVC radiation, hospitals, and other industries have used the technology to sanitize open rooms and equipment. In the early days, they used UVC lamps to place in empty spaces, over equipment, or trays of instruments. It is only safe to use against airborne and surface microbes, never on humans or animals.
Using UVC Light Sanitation at Home or Work
Remember that ultraviolet radiation is still dangerous and must be used as directed. You won’t be replacing your hand sanitizer anytime soon with a UVC device. However, you’ll find a plethora of tools for home use in some specialty stores and online.
Ultraviolet Light Vs. Chemical Disinfectants
When you are cleaning and disinfecting your home, you feel good about using a quality disinfectant on all your surfaces. Did you know that if your chemical disinfectant evaporates on the surfaces before a specific time, its effects are minimized? If you have a UVA device held at least six inches from the surface, it can effectively kill 99 percent of the germs.
UVC bulbs can last thousands of hours, which saves you money on replenishing sanitizing wipes and sprays. Depending on what UVC device you have, you can sanitize an entire room in an hour. You can also sanitize any surface or object safely, like your cell phone, keys, remotes, toiletries, and more.
Other Uses for UVC Devices
Do you know that you can purchase a UVC device that will purify your water? It can’t remove toxins and chemicals, but it can destroy harmful microbes. Some other tools that often use UVC technology include pest control and air purifiers. UVC rays can effectively kill toxic mold spores and offensive odors in your home or office.
What to Look for In A UVC Sanitizer
If you are interested in trying a UVC sanitizer in your home or office, you have several options that will fit your needs and budget. Familiar sources include UVC bulbs, lamps, and portable wands. Some cell phone sanitizers use UVC technology.
Look carefully at the label and manufacturer’s instructions to know what you are buying. Don’t be afraid to question the sales staff or online sellers. If you’re just buying a black light, it won’t have the microbe-killing properties as a UVC lamp.
You will see a measurement called nanometers (nm), which is the number of wavelengths that the light source should emit. For optimal germicidal effect, you should purchase a device with at least 200-280 nm.
It’s probably not a good idea to purchase a used UVC device. You don’t have the instructions and you don’t know if it’s been used properly. Save yourself some aggravation and time and spring for a new device. You won’t have to worry about where it came from or if it is working properly.
• Follow Directions
Read the manufacturer’s directions carefully before using your UVC lamp or device. Make sure you understand the time limits and where you should use it. Keep your UVC devices safely away from children and pets.
Although you can’t see UVC radiation waves, most devices use a blue light technology to let you know they are working and where the waves are focused. Smaller devices that sanitize toothbrushes or cellphones keep the rays in an enclosed case.
When you are working with UVC wands or lamps, you should always consider wearing special UVC-blocking safety glasses. It would help if you didn’t let your skin be exposed to UVC radiation, so wear personal protective equipment and clothing to keep yourself safe.
For now, using UVC lights to disinfect surfaces and open-air seems promising. It can kill just as many microbes as traditional disinfecting chemicals quicker and at a lower cost in the long run. Scientists continue to study its effects on harmful microbes and how UVC radiation can be harnessed for more significant resources.
If you want to kill germs in your home or office effectively, ultraviolet radiation technology may be worth your while. With proper care and precautions, you may find that using this method is more effective for you. Remember to ask questions and do your homework before you buy any UVC device.