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Lighting the way in a post-pandemic world

Simon Greenwood

Simon Greenwood

Sales Director Trade & Specification at Signify UK & Ireland
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UV-C Lighting

Simon Greenwood, Sales Director Trade & Specification at Signify UK & Ireland, details the benefits of UV-C lighting in a post-pandemic world. 

As the UK is now out of lockdown, there’s renewed focus on ensuring that workplaces, facilities, and all manner of public spaces are safe to use. But the risk of infection from the virus causing Covid-19 still remains at an all-time high. Highly frequented places like supermarkets and the office can become an incubator, as some cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. 

As organisations adjust to this new reality, good hygiene practices have become a prerequisite in our everyday routines –  in the home, in offices and in public. The increasing demand for solutions which promise efficiency in destroying harmful bacteria and viruses have, in turn, opened up opportunities for tried and tested forms of disinfectants. Enter UV technology.

There are three types of UV radiation found in sunlight. There’s UV-A and UV-B, which you may recognise from sunscreen labels. UV-A and UV-B cause sunburn and signs of skin ageing like wrinkles and age spots, and even skin cancer. UV-C, on the other hand, has a powerful germicidal property and is now stepping in to provide an extra level of protection alongside vaccination roll-out. 

The efficacy of UV-C as a powerful form of disinfection for air, surfaces, objects and water is well known. The technology has proven highly effective against all pathogens tested to date, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19.

UV-C as a technology isn’t new – it’s been used in hospitals and agriculture for decades to disinfect equipment, food and produce. The power of UV-C lighting for disinfection is well known with applications widely tested in the 1930s and 1940s. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a resurgence of interest in this relatively undersung technology.

New types of UV-C products have been launched in the past year – from air disinfection luminaires to chambers for objects, to surface luminaires that disinfect rooms and locations when no one is present. All of these products could help in fighting Covid-19. 

How UV-C lighting technology works

Viruses spread primarily through three vectors:

  1. Direct airborne transmission between people – such as a cough or sneeze
  2. Indirect airborne transmission through air flows – such as circulated air in a building
  3. Indirect surface-borne transmission via contaminated surfaces – picking up an infected phone or piece of cutlery, for example.

That’s why, to protect buildings and premises such as schools, hospitals, hospitality venues, and even sports arenas, we must disinfect the air, surfaces and objects. UV-C radiation is part of the spectrum of light, and when bacteria, viruses and spores encounter it, the light breaks down their DNA, deactivating them. This stops viruses from replicating and renders them harmless. 

Recent research conducted by Boston University shows that more than 99% of the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) was inactivated after just six seconds of exposure to UV-C light sources.

UV-C in practice

Due to its effectiveness, UV-C as a technology finds an avenue for application in the retail space, workplace, schools, hospitals, transportation, food services, sports arenas, to name a few. PSV Eindhoven, RB Leipzig and Harlequins Rugby Club here in the UK are some of the recent examples of sports stadiums that have installed UV-C technology for the safety of their players. 

Every year we hear about teams affected by flu bugs, resulting in them fielding weaker teams or playing havoc with fixtures. While Covid-19 was the primary driver for clubs to install UV-C disinfection upper air luminaires in their dressing rooms, it can help protect players all year round from airborne diseases, such as seasonal flu. 

UV-C installation in dressing rooms and tunnels help create a safer working environment for players and coaching staff. In the office space, the UV-C air units can disinfect the air whilst people work and circulate in the area, keeping the office space continuously safe for people, by adding an extra layer of safety.

While Covid-19 has increased demand for UV-C technology, UV-C as a technology is fit for fighting diseases and infections for animals. For example, Bourne Hill Stables in West Sussex has installed a UV-C system to help protect its thoroughbreds against equine flu and EHV-1 – the neurological form of equine herpes virus. The upper wall mount units disinfect the air around the stables, providing the horses with an added layer of protection against potentially devastating illnesses.

The future

As countries put forward economic stimulus packages and embark on infrastructure projects, attention should be given to making workplaces and public buildings safer. 

In the European Union alone, the total stimulus package amounts to a massive EUR 1.8 trillion. A significant chunk of this is earmarked for building renovation. What better time to bring UV-C technology to the fore to help create safer, cleaner, indoor environments? 

Lockdowns have taught us that people are social beings who thrive on face-to-face interaction. Video calling has been a godsend, but there is no substitute for in-person meetings. If people are to have the confidence to return to offices, greater attention must be given to keeping them safe. They must be able to trust the surfaces they touch and the air they breathe – pandemic or no pandemic. 

This is where UV-C lighting makes a real difference with its extraordinary power to disinfect. It truly is a technology for the new normal.

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