How UV Lights are Used in Hospitals

The medical field is constantly evolving. We are seeing new tools, procedures, and systems being implemented every year. As life expectancy goes up, the healthcare industry keeps looking for ways to improve the efficiency of treatment as well as come up with innovative ways of battling various illnesses. One aspect of this massive effort has to do with hygiene and UV lights are at the center of the latest innovations. 

What Is UV Radiation? 

UV light represents a particular frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The light we see, the radio waves we hear, and many other forms of energy are also a part of this same spectrum. UV light can be harmless, but it can also be extremely dangerous

Certain parts of the UV spectrum can be helpful, though. Advances in UV technology have revealed a whole spectrum of light that is fairly safe for humans but isn’t so safe for microorganisms we find harmful. UV disinfection has been at the core of many studies and has proven to be rather effective. 

How is UV Light Used in Hospitals? 

Hospitals are much more than just a palace you visit when you’ve suffered an injury. Your average hospital is a microcosm of various viruses, bacteria, and diseases. Although most of the deadliest viruses are often found in isolated rare disease treatment centers, your run-of-the-mill microorganisms are more than enough to wreak havoc in a high-traffic healthcare facility. 

Because of that, disinfection is one of the most important parts of patient care and overall hospital management. Every part of the facility needs to be thoroughly disinfected in order to neutralize any germs, bacteria, or viruses left behind. 

Infections caused by such microorganisms and sub-microscopic infection agents are called HAI, or Healthcare-Associated Infections. Finding and eliminating the vectors of HAI transmission is an ongoing battle. 

UV lights are just the latest weapon to be used on this invisible battlefield. Various UV light tools can be found in hospitals today. Seeing a UV shoe sanitizer is not uncommon. That being said, there are portable omnidirectional UV light sources designed to disinfect entire rooms. 

What Kind of UV Light is Safe For Disinfection? 

We’ve already mentioned that UV light represents an entire spectrum of ultraviolet frequencies. Most are harmful to humans. The majority of the UV spectrum is capable of penetrating the skin, thus causing permanent damage to cells. This is why we use sun cream on the beach

Some of the more recent studies have shown that there is a spectrum of UV radiation that won’t penetrate the skin even after long periods of exposure, but is perfectly capable of penetrating the cell walls of various microorganisms and viruses. 

This particular part of the spectrum is called UV-C. Devices that use this part of the UV spectrum for disinfection purposes are often called Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation devices (UVGI). 

How Effective is UV-C Radiation?

The effectiveness of UV-C radiation on various microorganisms depends on the type of organism as well as a few other factors. Distance from the light source is a big one, and so is the time spent under radiation. 

If we take some of the most common bacteria such as MRSA, VRE, and C Diff, we see that even the most resilient among them is neutralized within 15 minutes of exposure at roughly 10 feet away. That being said, most microorganisms last mere seconds when exposed to UV-C light. 

Safety Precautions and Future of UV-C Disinfection Technology 

Although it’s reasonably safe, most UV-C disinfection devices come with several safety features. One of the safeties includes terminating the light when any movement is detected in the room. Different systems use different safety features, but most are geared towards eliminating or minimizing human exposure to UV-C radiation. 

Recent viral outbreaks have shown just how important proper disinfection can be, not only in hospitals but everywhere. UV-C is seen as one of the most effective and most efficient disinfection tools available at the moment. Achieving the same level of efficiency using chemical disinfectants would require a significant amount of work hours as well as material. 

Since UV-C technology is already well established in the HVAC and meat processing industries, it is reasonable to expect significant improvements in the short term. 

As UV-C technology keeps progressing, there is a good chance we’ll see UV-C disinfection devices used in private homes. Widespread use and further development of UV-C tech will ultimately open this entire industry to the commercial sector. In fact, there are already devices available that are designed for commercial and personal use.