While in the past we’ve looked at how UVC technology has revolutionized cleaning in the home, and how it actually has a long history of safe usage going back over 100 years, the question on everyone’s mind these days has to be “can UVC kill the coronavirus”?
Given that we’re still learning – each and every day – about the novel coronavirus, this isn’t such a straightforward answer. We know that while it can live and be transmittable for various lengths of time on different surfaces, the more pressing concern is transmission by air, via the droplets we expel when talking, singing, or just breathing.
The short answer is yes. Recent studies have proven very promising, with germicidal UVC light proving extremely effective specifically against SARS-CoV-2. But it takes the right kind of UV in the right dosage.
In other words, many at-home UV-light devices claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2 might not make the cut, and for the consumer, a comprehensive understanding of the technologies at play is essential to ensure that the product you’re using is not only effective but safe.
What is UVC?
UV radiation can be classified into three types based on wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC. Nearly all the UV radiation that reaches Earth is UVA because most of UVB and all of UVC light is absorbed by the ozone layer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s UVC, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, that can act as a disinfectant.
By using a small band of the UV spectrum (280nm-100nm), UVC light represents a uniquely germicidal form of light that literally scrambled the very DNA that allows germs and bacteria to not only exist but proliferate. Viruses can’t produce on their own, but they can pass down that genetic material: their DNA (or RNA). So they reproduce by finding cells and injecting their DNA into them, allowing them to infect that cell and continue along as that cell reproduces over and over. It’s what viruses and bacteria pass on, and what UV-C light effectively does is scramble these strands, stopping contamination in its tracks.
And it’s effective, in laboratory testing, UVC light has been found to stop 99.9% of the things that can make us sick in their tracks, and it does it all without the use of harsh chemical cleaners or solvents.
So...Does UVC Kill The Coronavirus?
For those of us living through the pandemic – which, let’s face it, is all of us – the answer is yes. While UVC light is known to be germicidal, eliminating 99.9% of bacteria and germs on surfaces, in water, and in air, rigorous testing in hospital environments has revealed that – as is the case with other coronaviruses – UVC light’s germicidal power applies to SARS COV-2. UVC can kill the coronavirus in the right conditions.
But before you go and start bathing everything you own in UVC light, it’s important to know that it is not a replacement for common-sense cleanliness and best-practices. Since it’s inadvisable to use it on your bare skin, practices like using alcohol-based sanitizers and diligently washing your hands with warm water and soap still apply. Still, UVC technology represents a highly effective tool in the arsenal against this still-mysterious and deadly virus.