UV Lamps for Disinfection—Yay Or Nay?

How far would you go to ensure complete sterility of your home? Some might say they would take every measure possible if it meant the health and safety of their family and household.  Many are given to experimenting with new technology that promise to deliver higher levels of cleanliness beyond conventional cleaning practices.

On top of the crucial practice of hand washing and general cleaning that should be a non-negotiable in every home, comes the utility of machines that promise even deeper and thorough cleaning. These come usually in the form of

  • HEPA vacuums that, apart from being able to suction off tiny particles, also have the added benefit of trapping particles in the machine—a feature that most conventional vacuums do not have—preventing them from circulating back into the air
  • Purifying air filters that are able to collect fine dust, dirt, bacteria, viruses and even molds circulating in the air
  • Dehumidifiers that remove excess humidity in its immediate atmosphere, lowering the likelihood of mold growth in dark and damp areas, like your basement or bathroom.

One such machine that is being touted for it’s disinfectant properties are UVC lamps, already in use for the disinfection of air, water, and non-porous surfaces in many hospital settings. Emerging interest in novel ways of getting rid of viruses has given rise to the promotion of these seemingly advanced machines.

It would be important to cite some general considerations before employing the use of such an instrument however. These being:

  • Exposure: Radiation for purposes of virus inactivation only works if there is direct exposure. Thus if there is any substrate like soil, dirt, or dust blocking UV exposure, efforts at inactivating viruses will be ineffective. With its proposed use in domestic settings, further concerns would include the presence of furniture in the form of beds, couches, tables, and the like, that could serve to block the UVC rays from penetrating through its solid material an reaching the surface it aims to disinfect.
  • Duration and Dosage: These machines being commercially sold for home use are usually of a lower dosage than industrially used ones, and rarely come with a physicians advice on its safety. Given that not all UVC lamps emit the same wavelength, it’s important to know what wavelength is necessary to eliminate the specific pathogen you are most concerned with. As much as possible, one should also test beforehand the actual wavelength the lamp releases as this is equally crucial in ensuring you’re getting what is promised to you. Recognizing the difficulty of doing so is a primal consideration when going for this method of disinfection. 

Many users place these lamps in air ducts in order to sterilize the air, and could be an option, if your home has the capacity to accommodate it. In terms of leaving the UVC lamp exposed in rooms that are constantly inhabited, one must bear in mind the inherent risks in doing so including:

  • exposure of the UV to skin and eyes that could involve burns and eye-injury
  • degradation of other materials in the room, like plastic in personal care products left outside, or fabric on bedding or couches
  • wrongful installation by untrained individuals

Author suggests that consumers perform their own research as well as to determine whether this type of disinfection process fits their specific lifestyle, and indoor setup.

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