Using UV Disinfection Safely and Effectively: Technology Challenges during the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 27, 2020 | Evaluations & Guidance

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in the United States, ECRI has received an influx of questions about disinfection technologies. One such technology is ultraviolet (UV) disinfection systems—devices that use light from the UV spectrum to disinfect surfaces or air.

ECRI's Evaluations of two different UV disinfection device configurations—movable towers used for room disinfection and countertop models designed to disinfect tablets, phones, and other small devices—show that UV light can effectively reduce bioburden on surfaces. (The devices we've tested use 254 nm light.) With respect to SARS-CoV-2 in particular, experts expect its response will be similar to that of other coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, which have been shown to be inactivated by UV light. But proper use is key. The recommendations outlined below will help healthcare facilities make the most effective use of UV technology.

At the right wavelengths and with an appropriate exposure time, UV energy can disrupt the DNA or RNA of microorganisms that are exposed to the light, preventing them from replicating. Studies indicate that sufficient exposure to UV light can inactivate a wide range of microbes, including common strains found in hospitals, like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Most UV disinfection devices use UVC light—that is, light within the 200-280 nm range—although some systems use UVB or far-UV wavelengths. In particular, UVC light at 254 nm has been...

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