Understanding UV Light
When it comes to bacteria and pathogens, your choice of lighting can help prevent the spread of illnesses and diseases. As the nation continues to strive to stay safe and healthy, the use of germicidal lighting has become an integral feature for many.
Below, the experts here at Action Services Group help to explain how UV-C light helps reduce the spread of illnesses and the types of applications available to you.
Ultraviolet (UV) light occurs naturally. In fact, UV light accounts for roughly 10% of the light created by the sun.
Light is measured in wavelengths. Visible light occurs when these wavelengths measure between 400 nanometers (nm) and 700nm. Infrared light then accounts for wavelengths beyond 700nm. As electromagnetic radiation, UV light calls between 100nm and 400nm and is not visible to the eye. UV light is classified into one of three categories based on wavelengths: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.
UV-A light, also referred to as Near UV Light, occurs between 315nm and 400nm. UV-A wavelengths are those permitted to permeate through the Earth’s atmosphere. Because these wavelengths are so close to those of visible light, it is generally believed that UV-A light is safe for humans to be around.
UV-A light is used to fight certain types of viruses and bacteria. However, it should be understood that UV-A light is not as strong or capable of disinfection as other types of UV lighting. In fact, UV-A is most commonly used to fight minor, secondary infections only. (More common usages include curing, printing, lithography, and sensor applications.)
In short, UV-A light can help reduce bacterial infection rates but will not fully disinfect or sanitize an area.
UV-B wavelengths measure between 280nm to 315nm. UV-B light is mostly prevented from entering our atmosphere because the ozone layer absorbs wavelengths less than 290nm.
That being said, UV-B light is a stronger disinfectant than UV-A light but is still not able to kill all bacteria or viruses. While it is primarily used for curing and tanning beds – it is also used in broad-spectrum lighting. UV-B light is not considered safe for human eyes or skin and may cause minor irritations.
UV-C light is the most effective light for disinfecting. Also referred to as UV Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI), UV-C light measures between 200nm and 280nm. As with UV-B, naturally occurring UV-C is prevented from entering the atmosphere due to the Earth’s ozone layer.
UV-C germicidal light is not safe for eyes or skin. (However, it will not cause permanent damage to either, but the irritation can feel severe initially.)
UV-C light works by damaging the RNA and DNA of microorganisms, preventing them from being able to reproduce. In doing so, they eliminate bacteria, viruses, and pathogens and disinfect air, water, and surfaces.
To learn more about UV Wavelengths, check out our blog, What is Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI). We walk you through the differences in UV wavelengths, utilizing infographics, and explain What UVGI can Disinfect.
The History of UV Light Disinfection
In 1877, Arthur Downes and Thomas P. Blunt published The Influence of Light upon the Development of Bacteria, referencing their influential investigation of UV-C light as an anti-bacterial source. Since then, scientists have continued to expand on their findings and further validify this concept.
Because the earth’s ozone prevented germicidal UV light from entering the atmosphere, scientists worked for years to come up with a man-made replica of this anti-bacterial lighting. In 1903, the first UV quartz lamp was used by Niels Ryberg Finsen to treat skin tuberculosis. In 1910, a UV-C disinfection system was used to treat public water in Marseille, France. (Just 6 years later, the US followed suit at a water treatment plant in Kentucky.) By 1930, UV germicidal lamps became available commercially.
Since then, scientists have continued to evaluate and pursue applications of UV-C light in the treatment of illnesses, diseases, and preventive medicines. In fact, based on the potency of UV-C germicidal light, the United States Army, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend the use of UVGI as part of bio-defense systems, personal protective equipment (PPE) disinfection, and much more.
You might be interested in What is UV or UV-C Lighting? We walk you through the difference between all UV lighting, and how UV light can kill viruses and bacteria. Psst, there are also infographics!
Industries That Benefit from the Use Of UV-C Light Systems
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Industries of all kinds can benefit from the use of UVGI. Below, we list those industries that most commonly use UV-C disinfection light; however, it should be noted that it is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list.
Perhaps one of the most obvious industries, healthcare facilities have been using UVGI fixtures for years. As a hotspot for infections and viruses, healthcare facilities combine manual cleaning with the power of UV disinfection to help prevent the spread of illnesses between patients, healthcare professionals and visitors. (In fact, 2 minutes of UV-C exposure, in addition to manual cleaning methods, has been proven to reduce bacteria and pathogens by up to 70%!)
UVGI fixtures are highly sought after in healthcare facilities. This is because, to date, there are no known viruses or bacteria that have become resistant to disinfectant lighting. (This is not true for antibiotics, chemicals, and other methods of sanitation and disinfection.)
Healthcare facilities that benefit from the use of UVGI fixtures include, but is not limited to:
- Dental Offices
- Medical Equipment Storage Centers
- Nursing Homes
- Optometrist Offices
- Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Centers
- Senior Care Facilities
- Surgical Facilities
- Urgent Care Facilities
To learn more about how UV Lighting can benefit your medical facility we suggest the following articles.
Educational & Care Facilities
Educational and care facilities are another area where viruses and infections often breed. With masses of students coming from different home environments, exposure to illnesses is high in these facilities.
The use of UV-C disinfectant lighting fixtures in educational and care facilities can help protect students, faculty, and staff from becoming ill. It can also help reduce applications of chemicals, which are toxic and may contribute to respiratory illnesses or exacerbate already existing health conditions.
Educational and care facilities that may benefit the most from UVGI fixtures include:
- Colleges & Universities
- Daycare Centers
- Public & Private Elementary Schools
- Public & Private Middle Schools
- Public & Private High Schools
- Recreational Facilities
- School Buses
- School Gymnasiums
- Trade Schools
To learn more about how UV Lighting can benefit your educational facility we suggest the following articles.
Places that act as overnight facilities can be a breeding ground for any number of viruses and infections. When a guest checks in, they can bring with them microorganisms they may have been exposed to even without showing symptoms themselves. In addition to this, leaks, poor housekeeping, and other factors can lead to unseen mold and bacterial growths that can not only cost a fortune to remove, but also infect patrons. All of this can affect your business. In fact, 78% of hotel guests report that cleanliness and hygiene are the absolute most important factors when it comes to reserving a room. However, as pointed out in the healthcare section, manual cleaning often is not enough to kill all forms of dangerous microorganisms.
Facilities that cater to overnight guests and can benefit from UVGI applications include:
- Bed & Breakfasts
- Rental Cabins
Most fitness facilities place sanitization stations throughout their structure. However, these sanitation efforts are not often enforced and, quite simply, do not eliminate all contagions.
Fitness facilities expose users to infections of all types. From athletes’ foot to staph infections, fitness facilities make the perfect place for bacteria to thrive in. By adding UVGI fixtures to your facilities, you can assure your patrons that locker rooms, equipment, and workout spaces are thoroughly disinfected every day to help prevent the spread of illnesses.
Fitness facilities come in all shapes and sizes. However, some of the most common that stand to reap the benefits of UV disinfectant lighting include:
- Organized Sport Facilities (Examples: Basketball Courts, Tennis Courts, Hockey Rinks, etc.)
- Public Pools
- Recreation Centers
- Specialty Fitness Facilities (Examples: Indoor Rock-Climbing Facilities, Cross-Fit Centers, etc.)
The travel industry is also a sector where viruses and infections can spread rapidly. Nothing in modern history has made this as apparent as the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Travel enables individuals from all over the world to come into contact with others, as well as surfaces that can retain and spread illnesses.
From massive crowds and limited spaces to different hygiene standards and health regulations, full and proper disinfection is essential to preventing mass outbreaks of contagious illnesses. Being able to combine UV-C disinfectant lighting with manual cleaning can ensure your business does not become the next healthcare hotspot.
The travel industry includes a vast array of structures, vehicles, and facilities. Some of those already benefiting from UVGI lights include:
- Airports & Aircraft
- Cruise Ships
- Rental Vehicles & Agencies
- Train Stations & Trains
- Bus Stations & Buses
- Theme Parks
- Water Parks
Municipal & Government Locations
Municipal and government facilities are another sector that has benefitted from the use of UVGI fixtures and will continue to do so. Currently – hundreds of towns and cities use UVGI fixtures in water treatment facilities to prevent the spread of pathogens. Unlike chlorine and other chemical methods, UVGI disinfection is environmentally friendly and much safer for anyone exposed or ingesting water treated in these facilities. In addition to this, certain pathogens have developed immunities to these chemicals and continue to seep into our food, drinks, shower, and local bodies of water.
But UV-C lighting is not only used to treat water. Our government facilities, on both a state and federal level, are highly trafficked areas that can increase the chances of transmitting illnesses or viruses. Some of those facilities that can most benefit from the use of disinfectant UV-C lamps include:
- Emergency Response Facilities (Example: Fire & Rescue, Police Stations)
- Correctional Facilities
- Court Houses
- Parks & Recreational Facilities
- Public Works Offices
- Veteran Affairs Offices
- Wastewater Treatment Plants
Commercial & Industrial Facilities
Commercial and industrial facilities often include a diverse working group. By included UV-C disinfection, you can help prevent the spread of illnesses amongst your employees. You also help protect any customers that enter the facilities, as well as business partners, inspectors, and other visiting parties.
Healthier employees mean less spent on used sick leave as well as increase productivity and limited downtime due to individuals having to take off for recovery. Meeting certain health standards could also permit you to file for specific recognition, such as a WELL Certification. These types of certifications can be great for public relations and encourage potential occupants to lease your office space or new hires to apply for jobs within your company.
Commercial and industrial facilities are numerous; they include:
- Commercial Real Estate (Example: Rental Spaces, Leasable Office)
- Distribution Centers
- Manufacturing Plants
Non-profit organizations are not just those that appear on TV asking for donations. Many actually act as gathering places within communities. When crowds gather, however, it can lead to the spread of illnesses and viruses.
Because non-profit organizations often attend community events, or even host them, UV-C disinfecting fixtures can help prevent mass outbreaks of illnesses within a community. Some of these facilities include:
- Blood Banks & Clinics
- Community Centers
- Food Banks & Kitchens
- Homeless Shelters
- Membership-Based Organizations (Examples: Lions Clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, American Legions, Moose Lodges, etc.)
- Places of Worship
- Welfare Organizations
National accounts are similar to retail and hospitality facilities however, they increase scalability. Chain stores, including restaurants, clothing stores, and grocery stores, attract hundreds of customers, if not thousands, within a days’ time. These high trafficked areas often include crowded sections and long lines. Because of this, they can increase the spread of illnesses and viruses faster than local mom and pop style restaurants, fruit stands, and other smaller retail and dining facilities. Some of these facilities include:
- Chain Stores
- Discount Stores
- Department Stores
To learn more about how UV Lighting can benefit your restaurant or national chain, we suggest the following articles.
Other Industries and Areas
While the above industries cover a wide variety of facilities that can and are utilizing UV lighting, there are many other industries and areas that can also see major benefits. Do you know that 2 minutes of UV-C exposure, in addition to manual cleaning methods, has been proven to reduce bacteria and pathogens by up to 70%!
Below are a few additional industries and areas that can benefit from UVGI fixtures.
- Locker Rooms
- Office Space
- Movie Theaters
- Vehicle Rentals
- Correctional Facilities
- Conference Centers
- Break Rooms
- and Much More
Resolving the Self Performing versus Subcontracting ArgumentWhile we have found that for many multi-facility services decision-makers, the issue of hiring only self-performing vendors appears to be simple. But either it matters very much, or it does not matter at all. In some cases a facility service provider claims they self-perform all of our work! Others state they subcontract their field operations. While other facility service providers work hard to avoid the question altogether. Is one better…
Germicidal UV-C Light System Types
As technology continues to evolve, germicidal UV-C light systems have been able to adapt to different situations. Versatile and available in different options, we are confident there is a UV-C system that will fit your needs.
Mobile UV-C Disinfection Devices
For some applications, a portable model would be more appropriate. Mobile UV-C devices allow you to easily transport your UVGI fixture from room to room or focus on a very specific, limited areas. Commonly used in medical facilities, mobile UV-C devices can be brought into various rooms to ensure any potential illnesses or viruses have been thoroughly destroyed before a new patient enters the same area. Because of the number of rooms and the large scale of many medical facilities, these portable UVGI devices help to reduce investment costs because they are easily transported between spaces and just as effective. (Instead of installing a UV-C fixture in every single room, these portable models mean you purchase fewer devices but reap the same benefits and use them only as needed.)
UV-C Ceiling & Wall Fixtures
UV-C devices can also be permanently installed. They also help provide permanent disinfectant capabilities that can be tied into your lighting control system to ensure scheduled and/or automatic sanitation occurs regularly. (They can also be attached to simple motion sensors to ensure they remain off when an occupant is in the room to prevent eye and skin exposure.)
More often than not, permanent UV-C fixtures are installed via the ceiling or the wall.
- Ceiling Fixtures: Hung from the ceiling, these fixtures allow for permanently stationed UVGI lamps to be appropriately spaced to cover large areas. As with conventional industrial hanging lights, these fixtures are attached to your ceiling by chain or aircraft cables to ensure they are safely secured.
- Wall Fixtures: Wall fixtures can also be spaced to disinfect large areas. They are also easily adapted to contours to ensure tight corners or nooks are fully exposed to the UV-C light for disinfection.
Additional Uses for Germicidal UV-C Lighting
As stated previously, germicidal UV-C lighting can be used for more than just disinfecting surfaces. In fact, HVAC and water treatment facilities continue to use UVGI fixtures to help clean and disinfect the air you breathe as well as water.
When installed within an HVAC system, a UV-C fixture helps to kill airborne toxins that can spread illnesses and viruses even when the infected person is not in the same room. HVAC applications kill germs before they have the chance to filter into the next room and are part of a well-designed preventative system or upgrade. In addition to this, when installed within ductwork, there is no risk of eye or skin exposure to the UV-C light. Not only are you cleaning the air, you have a built-in defense that keeps the room’s occupants safe from exposure.
Water treatment is another ideal application. UV-C fixtures have been designed that allow these lamps to be inserted directly into water. When turned on, these fixtures kill off waterborne pathogens that can escape chemical treatments. Not only is this safer for those who may come into contact with these pathogens, but it protects the surrounding environment from harsh chemicals that may damage the ecosystem around water treatment plants. UV-C reactors, which are the devices installed within water tanks are easy to maintain and often require little more than a bulb change. It leaves no residue and, when installed within the water conduit, acts as part of your system and does not require additional time to process. Used to treat rainwater, drinking water, and even wastewater – incorporating germicidal UV-C light into your system can seriously reduce the spread of illnesses and viruses.
Improved Safety Features for Germicidal UV-C Lighting
Above, we mentioned that there are some safety concerns when using germicidal UV-C light. All forms of UV light contain carcinogenic properties – which means they can lead to cancer. For the most part, however, eye and skin exposure will likely lead to intense and painful irritations that may take days to recover from.
It is unlikely that momentary exposure will lead to the development of cancer. However, even irritations can be painful and are best avoided. To prevent this, it is highly recommended that UVGI fixtures are only operated when a room is unoccupied or when proper safety precautions are met.
In order to safely operate UV-C lighting, some features may be desired. This includes:
- Exterior On/Off Switches: Placing the off/on switch for your UV-C fixture outside the room can ensure the room is unoccupied and the door shields the operator from exposure.
- Pre-Programming: Pre-programming your UV-C fixture to automatically turn on and off while your business is closed can ensure it is only run while the building is completely unoccupied. For example, if you operate a chain store that is open between 8AM and 8PM, you can pre-program your UV-C fixture to cycle through at midnight to ensure no employees or customers are in the store when the light is on.
- Sensors: UV-C fixtures can also be attached to occupancy sensors. These sensors can be used to automatically turn a UVGI lamp off when motion is detected in a room.
- Smart Phone Applications: Certain fixtures come with controls that can be integrated onto your smartphone or tablet. This gives you control from anywhere in the world without requiring the UV-C fixture to manually be powered on and off.
We know you have a lot of safety questions. Try reading, Is Germicidal UV Light Safe? It will help elevate any concerns you may have. Our UV Lighting Specialists, can also answer any questions you might have. You can contact us by calling 800-223-0982 or email email@example.com. You can also Tell Us About Your Project!
UV-C Disinfection Lighting with Action Services Group
When it comes to preventing the spread of illnesses and viruses, it has become apparent that we can do better. If you believe your business or building could benefit from the use of germicidal UV-C lighting, the experts at Action Services Group are here to help.
As professionals, we can help you select the best fit and fixture for your needs. Because we take your specific needs and interests seriously, we work to ensure the fixtures we recommended meet with your requirements and provide exactly what you are looking for without trying to push specific products on you.
If you would like to discuss UV-C options, please contact us today. There are several options to reach out. You can contact us by calling 800-223-0982 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also Schedule a Call to speak with one of our UV Lighting Specialists!
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