Avoiding Misuse of UVC Room Disinfection Technology

November 14, 2018 | Evaluations & Guidance


Ultraviolet (UV) room disinfection devices, which can be deployed as an adjunct to routine cleaning processes, are used for microbial disinfection of surfaces that can be directly exposed to UV light. Studies indicate that sufficient exposure to UV light can eliminate a number of microbes, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).

Interest in this technology has increased in recent years; and new devices and new manufacturers continue to enter the market. UV room disinfection devices typically consist of a movable tower that houses mercury or xenon lamps that emit UV light. The devices may be placed in patient rooms, bathrooms, ORs, procedure rooms, or other locations following cleaning to help fight environmental contamination. In many facilities, the UV disinfection program may be initiated and overseen by the infection prevention department, but managed by environmental services (EVS) staff.

When used properly and as a supplement to normal cleaning and disinfection processes, UV disinfection can be effective at reducing the environmental bioburden in a facility. However, UV disinfection technology may be less effective, or on occasion dangerous, if not used properly. Good outcomes depend on proper use of safety features and conscientious placement of the device in the treatment room.

Human exposure to ultraviolet-C (UVC) light should not exceed 3 mJ/cm2 within eight hours (ICNIRP 2004). Depending on the unique setup of the room and the UV room disinfection device, an individual's exposure can exceed this limit within seconds of entry into a treatment room if the device does not turn off. Some studies suggest that excessive exposure to UVC light can cause photokeratitis and keratoconjunctivitis of the eye, causing inflammation and pain; erythema of the skin can also occur (Kowalski 2009). To reduce the risk of UVC exposure, many devices require the use of door or motion sensors that...

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