A Uvilizer is a product used to sterilize and disinfect a surface or a room with ultraviolet-c (UVC) light. While these have mainly been used in medical facilities, since the coronavirus pandemic, Uvilizers have gained popularity for in-home use.
Portable Uvilizers are being used in healthcare settings to help disinfect rooms that may contain viruses that are hard to kill.
While data shows a good response to using UV light as a disinfectant, the increased environmental use of this can cause viruses to mutate, resulting in new strains of viruses.
Home utilizer systems and handheld wands are not recommended due to safety concerns. Alternative disinfectant products for the home should be considered instead.
When the coronavirus spread across the world, healthcare facilities were challenged with finding beds for their patients while properly disinfecting their rooms and surfaces to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
Pathogens and viruses can spread through multiple routes, including through the air or indirectly through touching contaminated surfaces. With shortages of consumer chemical disinfectants, disinfecting with UVC radiation has become a fast-growing chemical-free technology to disinfect air and surfaces.
History and science behind UV light
The use of UV light to kill germs is not a new practice. For example, during the influenza pandemic in 1918, it was estimated that over 500 million people became infected with influenza, and at least 50 million people worldwide died.
The Massachusetts State Guard responded to the pandemic by building Camp Brooks Open Air Hospital at Corey Hill in Brookline near Boston. This hospital was made up of 13 tents — 12 of those tents occupied one to two patients and a nurse. Medics found that severely ill flu patients who were placed outdoors recovered faster than those treated indoors. The combination of fresh air and sunlight appeared to prevent deaths and infection among patients and the medical team. This practice became known as the “open-air method.”
Lab experiments showed that UV radiation inactivated the influenza virus and other viral pathogens, as sunlight kills bacteria. Sunlight is also known to promote healing. Patients who were placed outside had the advantage of synthesizing vitamin D in their skin. This was something they were not able to do indoors.
Studies on the open-air method have been conducted since the 1918 flu pandemic. Exposure to solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) allows the biosynthesis of vitamin D, activating peptides that help our immune system fight organisms that are making us sick.
Learning from history, additional research showed that UV radiation can play a role in disinfecting surfaces and the air. When the coronavirus struck the nation, there was a high need to find a way to disinfect surfaces and the air to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. With shortages of disinfecting chemicals, many healthcare facilities adopted the practice of sterilizing rooms with portable Uvilizer systems, which use ultraviolet light to inactivate a virus.
Uvilizer – how does it work?
A Uvilizer is a product that gives off ultraviolet-C (UVC) radiation to disinfect surfaces without using chemicals. Uvilizer portable systems or wands use UVC radiation between 200 and 280 nm, known as the UVC spectrum, to disinfect and sterilize surfaces and the air.
This method has been found most effective in disinfecting rooms in combination with a bleaching regimen. After a patient who had COVID-19 or other “superbugs” is discharged from the hospital, the room is cleaned with a bleaching regimen, and then a portable Uvilizer is placed in the room with the doors shut. When turned on, the portable Uvilizer has a timer to allow everyone to exit the room before the UVC light turns on. Next, a timer is set for the portable Uvilizer to disinfect the room. Once it is complete, the door is opened back up, and the portable Uvilizer is removed from the room.
The use of UVC radiation causes critical damage to microorganisms, which prevents them from replicating and surviving. However, the microorganisms only go into an inactive state and are not killed.
While research has shown that combining bleach cleaners with a portable Uvilizer has reduced the risk of germs spreading through the environment, studies have shown that the increased use of UV radiation in the environment can lead to an increased rate of viral mutation. While the majority of mutations are not effective since most viral genes have very specific roles to perform, some mutations may lead to the evolution of new strains of the virus.
Risks & benefits of at-home UV sanitizers
The benefits of using a portable Uvilizer include inactivating viruses that spread easily and/or are resistant to antibiotics. For example, this has been shown to reduce vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) transmission by up to 64% when combined with a bleach cleaning regimen prior to using a portable Uvilizer.
However, there are safety issues to consider before using a Uvilizer. For example, UV exposure can have dangerous health effects on the skin or eyes from direct irradiation and secondary exposure from the UV light reflecting off surfaces. The risks of incorrectly used Uvilizers include:
- Skin cancer
- Retinal damage
Home portable Uvilizers and handheld Uvilizer wands have also gained popularity since the coronavirus pandemic. So, while manufacturers provide instructions for safe operation, it is up to the user to make sure they are following these guidelines. Furthermore, the public may also not know how long the Uvilizer needs to be used to be effective, the distance it covers, and the safety considerations for the product.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also warned consumers about the potential risk of injury associated with certain brands of UV wands. They recommend not using these wands for disinfection because they may expose the user or people nearby to unsafe levels of UVC radiation that may cause injury to the skin, eyes, or both after a few seconds of use.
The FDA's testing shows that some UV wands do not have adequate safety features to reduce the risk of injury to the user or others nearby. Therefore, wands lacking safety instructions or information on the radiation emitted and associated risks should be avoided. Instead, they recommend using an alternative disinfection method, such as chemical cleaners, to kill germs in the home or similar places.
While there may be an appropriate use for portable Uvilizer in the healthcare setting to help disinfect rooms that may contain viruses that are hard to kill, it is not recommended to use these products in the home due to the safety concerns of home Uvilizer products. With unsafe levels of UV radiation being reported in multiple home Uvilizer products, it is recommended to use an alternative disinfecting product.
- ACS Photonics. A Critical Review on Ultraviolet Disinfection Systems against COVID-19 Outbreak: Applicability, Validation, and Safety Considerations.
- Dermato-Endocrinology. The possible roles of solar ultraviolet-B radiation and vitamin D in reducing case-fatality rates from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in the United States.
- American Journal of Public Health. The Open-Air Treatment of PANDEMIC INFLUENZA.
- Food and Drug Administration. Do Not Use. Ultraviolet (UV) Wands That Give Off Unsafe Levels of Radiation: FDA Safety Communication.
- Duke Health. UV Light Helps Duke Hospitals Fight Transmission of Superbugs.