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Is UV Sterilization Effective in Eliminating Viruses and Bacteria?
How efficient is UV sterilization in eliminating bacteria and viruses? What are the pros and cons of having a handheld UV sterilizer?
These are questions experts working in the microbiology field hear a lot, especially when people think about how dirty their cell phone may get. With more and more UV sterilization products such as handheld UV light sterilization devices coming on the market, you might be wondering if they are worth trying. So, let us dig in!
UV light has been utilized for sterilization and disinfection from the mid of the 20th century. With advancements in technology, and specifically in the UV bulbs themselves, its dependable, long lifespan (thousands-of-hours) and smaller size (for example, UV LED vs. traditional UV bulbs) have extended the field where it can be used. You can find it being used to disinfect items such as water, air, surgical utensils, tablet computers, fruits, vegetables, toys, and different surfaces.
When it comes to UV sterilization, not all types of UV are effective. What does that imply? To get a little technical, ultraviolet (UV) means “beyond violet.” That refers to a variety of electromagnetic waves with a shorter wavelength (higher frequency and energy) than the visible violet light. UV is divided into three categories, with reducing wavelengths and increasing energy. These types of UV light are UVA, UVB, and UVC. For UV sterilization, only UVC (100-280nm) has enough energy to kill microorganisms efficiently. When shopping for a UV sterilization product such as a handheld UV light device to use in your home or business, ensure that its UV wavelength falls in the range of UVC (100-280 nm).
Is UV sterilization effective for viruses and bacteria? The short answer is yes, and even more organisms. If you use the correct UV light sterilization time in sanitizing and cleaning surfaces and different items, you will have maximum effectiveness.
Studies have indicated that UVC at 254 nm is effective against all foodborne pathogens, natural microbiota, molds, and yeasts. Since microorganisms come with different sizes and shapes that affect their UV absorption, the required time for killing each species varies.
One limitation of UV sterilization is that UVC can lead to so much damage in both proteins and DNA/RNA that they cannot be used for biomedical products. For instance, UVC sterilization of viruses causes damage to the viruses’ surface proteins that they cannot be used as vaccines to induce suitable immune responses. That makes a different kind of “UV inactivation” method be used in biomedical products to preserve viral surface proteins while effectively inactivating viruses.