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How Does UV Light Kill Viruses and Bacteria?

4 May 2020
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With more and more UV sterilization products launching in the market, people’s questions and concerns are rising too. How does UV light kill viruses and bacteria? How effective is UV sterilization? Are UV light products worth trying?

Let’s dig in and answer any questions about UV light and UV sterilization that you may have.

What Is UV Light?

Since its discovery in the late 1800s, ultraviolet light has been the go-to solution for disinfection and sanitation. Many industries, such as hospitals, water treatment plants, and food manufacturing sectors, have embraced UV light as a disinfecting tool thanks to its safety features and effective results.

To get a little technical, UV light refers to a range of electromagnetic waves that have shorter wavelengths but a higher frequency and energetic radiation than the visible ultraviolet light.

There are three distinct kinds of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. There’s a common misconception that the three different types of UV rays do the same thing. While natural sunlight consists of all the three rays, each band varies in wavelengths, characteristics, range, and they differ in how much they can penetrate surfaces, including the skin.

UVC rays have the shortest wavelength and, therefore, possess the highest radiation. For UV sterilization, only this band has the power and the ability required to kill bacteria, mold, viruses, and fungi effectively.

In fact, in recent years, UVC light has played a vital role in stopping the spread of numerous pathogens like the superbug and the flu. So, if you’re ever shopping for UV sterilization products, make sure that it’s wavelength falls in the range of UVC (between 200 to 280 nm).

So, how do these UV light sanitizers actually work?

How UV Sterilization Works

To understand how UVC light or germicidal UV light (UVGI) kills viruses and bacteria, we need to have a basic understanding of their DNA and RNA structure. Like all living organisms, bacteria and viruses store instructions on reproduction, growth, functioning, and developing in their DNA and RNA.

The Difference Between DNA and RNA

DNA modules are made of two strands bound together by four bases – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. Meanwhile, RNA modules are single-stranded and bound by nitrogenous bases called adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil, which replaces thymine in DNA.

DNA strands carry the genetic information of living organisms, such as humans, whereas RNA can take on multiple roles. Due to the structure of RNA molecules, they can be continuously broken down, made, and reused, allowing the organisms that possess them to easily mutate.

Living organisms that need to rapidly change in order to survive use RNA as a basis of there genetic structure. Viruses such as influenza (the common flu), HIV, and the novel coronavirus have RNA. Therefore, they are able to remain one step ahead of our immune system. Since the structure of these viruses continuously changes, they can reinfect us even if we have already had it.

How Does UV Light Destroy DNA and RNA?

What UV light does is cause thymine or cytosine bases in DNA and uracil dimers in RNA to fuse together. This literally scrambles and changes the structure of DNA, RNA, and proteins in bacteria and viruses.

Since the DNA and RNA sequences are no longer correct, bacteria and viruses can no longer replicate correctly. As a result, their ability to reproduce through cell division is destroyed, and they are no longer infectious. Keep in mind that RNA can mutate. Therefore, it is more resistant to UV light damage than DNA.

Moreover, the effectiveness of UV light sterilization depends on the radiation power applied, the length of exposure time, as well as the distance from the light source. However, it is widely believed that UVC light has the right properties to kill 99.99% of all bacteria and viruses.

The Advantages of UV Sterilization

There are many benefits of using UV disinfection, but below the top two are highlighted:

1. High Pathogen Kill Rate

As mentioned above, research has proven that germicidal UV lights kill up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses. The best part? UV light kills all kinds of pathogens regardless of their drug resistance!

2. Zero Chemical Exposure

UV sanitization is a non-chemical and toxic-free method of disinfection. It’s environmentally friendly and requires low maintenance.

Due to its toxic-free approach of disinfection as well as efficiency, UV light sterilization is gaining acceptance in many sensitive industries such as the food and beverage sector rapidly. That’s because it kills all known pathogenic and food spoilage microorganisms effectively and quickly.

So, you no longer need to use bleach to strip your groceries off of bacteria, viruses, or any other pathogens! UV light can also effectively destroy germs lurking in your bathroom, kitchen, or other germy areas of your house that you may not be aware of.

Precautions When Using UV Sterilization Devices

In recent years, many smaller versions of the UV light cleanser have become available to consumers to sterilize everything from mobile phones to toothbrushes. They are available in various forms, including wands, boxes, and bottles, and each of them comes with its own manual of instructions on how to use the light to kill germs along with specifics on light source distance and exposure time.

It’s essential to follow the instructions because even though the benefits of UV light sterilization are significant, it has one major drawback: since it can destroy DNA, it can be very harmful to humans if used incorrectly. If you don’t use protective equipment during the usage of UV light, it can cause skin cancer and cataract.

Not all UV light cleansers are the same, though. Most low-cost ones are low in potency. Therefore, you may be able to look at or be in the same room with them. This, however, means that they are not as effective and will require a longer exposure time to kill viruses and bacteria as efficiently as stronger UV light sterilization devices.

By combining the safety features and the strengths of UVC wavelength, Wolven’s technology maximizes the intensity of bacteria-killing light delivered. Don’t just wash your hands, prevent yourself from exposure to bacteria and viruses in the first place!

Stay tuned to find out more about our handheld UV cleanser.

Check out the upcoming technology we have addressing this issue.



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