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If you missed our first FAQs on disinfection lighting post, click here. It provides the basics, like a definition of UV lighting and UV disinfection lighting. 

Does UV light kill covid?

Can UV lighting be used to disinfect N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE)? What is the process for disinfecting PPE with UV disinfection lighting?

First, it’s vital to note that most PPE, like N95 masks, is not meant to be used more than once. That said, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a shortage of PPE, forcing the reuse of these products. Because they must be reused, disinfection is nonnegotiable, and UV disinfection lighting is a great way to do it.

As discussed in our post on the basics of UV disinfection lighting, UV-C radiation damages RNA and DNA, stopping microbes (viruses, bacteria, etc.) from replicating. It’s a simple method of disinfection and, when used correctly, does very little, if any, damage to PPE.Covid Blog Post Size-1

The University of Nebraska Medical Center has already successfully disinfected PPE, specifically N95 masks, using UV disinfection lighting, specifically the method of UVGI.

Their process for disinfecting PPE involves mobile UV-C light fixtures and towers set up in an unoccupied room. The towers are controlled remotely or via factory pre-commissioning, as well as with occupancy sensors to avoid human exposure to the ultraviolet light (more on safety and UV lighting here). Once the PPE is disinfected, a process that takes between 30 minutes and two hours depending on the equipment and spacing conditions, it can be removed from the room and redistributed to medical staff.

To learn more about the many applications for UV-C light, including mobile light towers, click here. 

As outlined in this study, there are additional steps that need to be taken to ensure safety of equipment reuse after UV light disinfection. Among them:

  • All PPE should be labeled so it returns to its original owner
  • All PPE should be placed in sealed packages following disinfection for redistribution
  • Both sides of each piece of equipment should be treated under the UV lighting
  • Equipment should not touch other equipment while being disinfected, and in general should remain separate
  • Any surface that the used PPE touches should be manually (cleaned/wiped down) disinfected as well


How long does it take to disinfect surfaces and materials using UV-C lighting?

There are many variables to consider: how far away is the object or surface you're trying to disinfect from the UV light source? Are people going to be entering the space while you're trying to disinfect? Is the disinfection continuous, like it often is for air decontamination? What type of surface or material are you trying to disinfect? What type of UV disinfection system and lamp types are you using? The variables continue, and disinfection using UV lighting can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours.

You will need to discuss your existing material and available spacing conditions with your product supplier so that they can recommend the appropriate products. We can help, just tell us more about your project.


How long does UV disinfection last?

As with any other method of disinfection, it only lasts until the equipment, air, surface, etc. is once again exposed to harmful bacteria/viruses. Regular disinfection is necessary. For PPE, daily disinfection is ideal.


What is the difference between sterilization, disinfection, and decontamination?

It is important to understand the difference between sterilization, disinfection, and decontamination as these terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably, which can cause confusion regarding the effectiveness of UVGI (as well as the avoidance of potential legal ramifications). We also discuss these terms here.

Sterilization- Per the CDC, sterilization describes a process that destroys or eliminates all forms of microbial life and is carried out by physical or chemical methods.

Disinfection- Per the CDC, disinfection describes a process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms on inanimate objects.

Decontamination- To decontaminate is to make an object or area safe by removing, neutralizing, or destroying any harmful substance. Basically, decontamination is the result after the processes of sterilization or disinfection.

What is the Nebraska Medicine UV Disinfection Study?

Nebraska Medicine has developed an effective and safe method for the decontamination of one-use personal protective equipment (PPE) so that this equipment can be used multiple times instead of being disposed of after initial use, or, worse, used again without decontaminating. Click here for our whole blog post regarding this study, as well as a PDF download of the study in its entirety.

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