Ultraviolet Light Disinfection is not a new technology to many industries, but more and more experts are utilizing the technology in the growing concern of providing infection control in hospitals globally. The most recent area of the world to take an interest in using UV in these capacities is Canada.
UV disinfection works by utilizing the UV-C bands (UVC) that are emitted from several kinds of ultraviolet lights. The UVC works by first penetrating the cell wall of any DNA based contaminant such as bacteria, viruses, mold, yeast, and fungus. When the cell wall of these contaminants is accessed the UV then alters or scrambles the DNA inside of the contaminant. When the DNA is altered in this way the contaminant is rendered unable to reproduce and is deactivated effectively killing it. Various kinds of contaminants may require longer exposure times or higher intensities to kill, but most of these timings are variations are relatively small but a specialist should always be consulted.
Why is Canada taking notice? Currently Canadian hospitals see about a one in nine rate of patients that will contract a Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI) unrelated to their hospital visit while receiving treatment. Infection Control teams, Engineers, and Maintenance Departments are implementing the technology in various applications such as HVAC, within Operating Suites, and even in mobile units that can be pushed from room to room to disinfect after patient stays. Some hospitals have also gone as far as using UV for water treatment and in places like food and ice machines for sterilization. Operating Room packages and mobile UV units are able to disinfect the air within rooms while also providing surface disinfection to furniture, tools, and highly used areas like door knobs and railings within the room. Several studies and even the Center for Disease Control have been able to demonstration benefits and reductions from using the technology.
Why would placing UV in an HVAC application help the hospital? In most applications the UV is placed to shine directly on the heating/cooling coils within an AHU. When the UV is present here it is able to keep the coils clean of mold and other bacteria that can thrive in these types of environments as well as disinfect the air as it passes by the coils and pushed through the ductwork thus circulating the clean air throughout the building. There are also added benefits of better performance of the HVAC units with cleaner coils and drain pans that keep the unit working as designed longer and provide energy efficiency.