UV light is a reliable and well-studied antimicrobial technology. It primarily works by ruining the DNA inside bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The high-energy portion of the UV spectrum known as UV-C is most effective.
Whole-room UV disinfection systems first emerged to US hospitals around 2007. Since then, popularity has increased because they sanitize practically all surfaces in a room at once, with minimal labor and without hazardous chemicals. Even companies with experience in chemical disinfection have entered the whole-room UV disinfection market. For example, Clorox recently formed a partnership with handheld UV light device maker UVDI.
Several companies make and sell handheld UV light sterilizationanddisinfection devices, including market leaders Xenex, UVDI, and Spectra254. The machines come in a range of configurations. Most are designed to be wheeled into a room, used, then wheeled out. Recently, a company called UVC Cleaning Systems introduced a stationary UV device. The device is designed to be mounted on a wall. All of the devices produce UV light using either mercury-UV bulbs that run continuously or xenon UV bulbs that pulse. Mercury UV bulbs primarily emit light at 254 nanomers, while pulsed xenon UV bulbs emit UV light at various germicidal wavelengths.
How to Regulate UV Room Disinfection Devices
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary controller of chemical pesticides and pesticidal devices, even though the FDA and the various US States also take part. EPA defines microorganisms as pests, disinfectants as pesticides, and disinfecting devices as pesticidal devices. Pesticidal devices are not subject to pre-market approval by EPA, though EPA does need data supporting efficacy to be held on file. Companies that make handheld UV sterilizerdevices must register with the Agency and then report how many units are sold each year.
EPA does not review or approve data supporting the performance of UV devices before they are sold. Therefore, the onus is on infection control practitioners and hospital buyers to ensure that the machines are killing microorganisms as promised. Careful evaluation of manufacturer claims is necessary to ensure that the UV devices deliver the real benefit of reducing hospital-acquired infections.