Technologies for sanitizing environments are among the most useful and sought after for the restart phase after the pandemic. These are technologies based on ionization, photocatalysis, ozonation, filtering, which become fundamental tools for limiting the risk of spreading viruses and bacteria in public buildings, homes, but also hospitals and transport.
Among the most popular sanitization systems we find LED-UVC lamps which are generating more than interesting results in reducing the transmission of viruses, thanks to the inactivating capacity of UVC and the high functionality of LED technology in terms of efficiency, consumption, duration .
UVC light in sanitization: a multi-barrier approach
Taking a small step back, let's remember that UV radiation covers that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with a wavelength between 100 and 400 nanometers (nm) and that it is divided into three main categories: GRAPE (315-400 nm), UVB (280-315 nm) and, finally, UVC (100-280 nm). Each of these frequency bands has been shown to cause different reactions on living organisms, including – in the case of UVC – the destruction of the DNA or RNA of microorganisms by photochemical reaction, so as to obtain theinactivation of microorganisms themselves.
For more than forty years, UVC light has been widely used in the disinfection of drinking water, wastewater, air and surfaces, acting on a wide range of pathogens with excellent results. UVC disinfection is often used in combination with other technologies, in a multi-barrier approach. This ensures that if a pathogen survived a method (for example filtering or a “simple” cleaning) it would later be inactivated by UVC light which would act to consolidate the entire process.
In research "IUVA Fact Sheet on UV Disinfection for COVID-19” (Study on the use of UV in Covid-19 disinfection and sanitization) published by the International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA) reports that UVC lamps have achieved a very high level of virus inactivation SARS-CoV-1 And MERS-CoV, a factor that leads to predicting similar results in the treatment of the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.
The effectiveness of UVC light in this regard depends on factors such as the exposure time and the ability of the UVC light to physically reach the viruses, for example in the creases and crevices of materials and surfaces. In cases where UVC light could not reach a particular pathogen, that pathogen would not be inactivated. In these terms, the multi-barrier approach is even more essential.
UVC lamps and mercury vapor lamps
Mercury lamps are widely used in disinfection systems and present themselves as an alternative solution to UVC LED lamps. There are, however, many aspects that underline the advantages of this second technology compared to mercury vapor lamps.
First of all, while UVC LEDs emit a wavelength of maximum effectiveness, mercury lamps have a UV emission of 254 nm, a little lower than peak germicidal efficacy. Furthermore, in terms of usability, mercury lamps emit light in a diffused way, a factor which - in a context such as disinfection, where precision is fundamental - highlights the ability of the LED to illuminate in a pinpoint manner.
In the overview of the advantages of a UVC LED lamp compared to a mercury vapor lamp, the fundamental characteristics of LED technology must be considered, such as energy saving, long duration of life, the capacity for sudden ignition, the portability, but also the possibility of controlling and modulating the devices remotely.
UVC LAMPS AND SAFETY
UVC light at wavelengths between 200 nm and 280 nm is much more intense than sunlight, therefore in the "man-machine relationship" one must ensure the correct use of the system as well as its safety compliance. To guarantee this and other regulatory aspects, all equipment must bear the CE mark as proof of the successful passing of all the checks required by the CE certification of the products.
At the skin level, in particular, UVC light can cause moderately significant reactions and burns; while at an ocular level, damage affecting the cornea and retina cannot be ruled out.
Other risks associated with the use of UVC light are rooted in the fact that some devices produce ozone during their operation, while some produce heat and others make considerable movements during their use cycle. Therefore, the safety of UVC lamps must be assessed as with all other electrical and electronic equipment within the process CE certification. Specific hazards are highlighted and addressed as part of the product risk assessment.
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