Is UV-C Light Safe for Humans?

Defining UVC and Far-UV Light

What is UVC Light?

Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light is one of three identifiable categories (UV-A, UV-B, UV-C) of ultraviolet light with a wavelength ranging from approximately 200 to 280 nanometers. Long utilized for germicidal properties, UV-C light deactivates or disrupts DNA structure and effectively inhibits the replication of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens or microorganisms. Traditional germicidal UV-C, emitting at a wavelength of 254nm, is capable of penetrating skin and eye tissue and is dangerous to humans.

What is Far-UV Light?

Also within the defined UV-C wavelength range is Far-UV light, or Far-UVC, emitting at a shorter wavelength of 222nm. Scientific research has shown that at this wavelength, Far-UV is better absorbed by proteins that help prevent 222nm light from penetrating living tissues like skin and eyes. Far-UV light, when utilized in products like safeUV 222nm Excimer Lamps, offers the same germicidal benefits of UV-C light while remaining safe for direct human exposure within occupied spaces.

The History of UV-C Light as a Germicide

The origins of using UV-C light as a germicide extend back to the late 19th century and Arthur Downes and Thomas Blunt. These two scientific researchers found that when test tubes filled with bacteria-laden solution were placed in direct sunlight, the growth and replication of the bacteria were inhibited. While the earth’s atmosphere does prevent harmful UV-C light from penetrating the surface, this initial test-tube study launched further investigation into the light spectrum and the beneficial properties of different UV wavelengths. Further research conducted in the 1890s ultimately determined that UV-C light offered superior germicidal properties in comparison to UV-A and UV-B.

These scientific findings were quickly implemented into sanitization practices for both airborne and waterborne pathogens. The most notable usage of UV-C light, especially at 254nm, was in eliminating infectious diseases and preventing cross-infections in hospital operating rooms and other intentionally sterilized environments. Even as early as 1910, UV-C light was used to disinfect water sources but faced considerable setbacks due to unreliable results. It wasn’t until the 1980s or 1990s that UV-C became a reliable water treatment option within water plants throughout the United States and Europe. While standard 254nm light was incredibly reliable as a germicidal solution, researchers worked diligently to find a more human-safe alternative to continue expanding the use of UV light for sanitization applications. UV-C is still used in controlled medical and scientific environments, while the shorter wavelength Far-UV has quickly been adapted for applications in public spaces like gyms, hospitals, schools, and public transportation.

UV-C Light & Human Exposure

Generally speaking, a considerable range of UV-C wavelengths are not safe for human exposure and will damage both skin and sensitive tissues around the eyes. However, Far-UV light, while still classified as UV-C due to the 222nm wavelength, retains the germicidal properties of UV-C without the possibility of harming human beings. The advancement of Far-UV technology into the FlexMount 241 and 241P excimer lamps offered by safeUV, has quickly made real-time sanitization of air and surfaces a reality for occupied spaces.

For decades, shared public spaces like gyms, classrooms, bathrooms, and public transportation have relied on manual cleaning methods to eradicate germs. Some investigations into these methods have shown poor efficacy and even harmful side effects from the cleaning agents themselves. For example, one of the most frequently recommended candidates for safeUV 222nm Excimer Lamps are gyms or other communal exercise spaces.

UV-C Light Infographic about safeUV's Excimer Lamp technology

What could be dangerous airborne pathogens, like coronavirus, are destroyed by the safeUV Excimer Lamp technology which works on a molecular level to eradicate such threats. Surface pathogens are invisible to the naked eye, yet their presence can have serious health implications. safeUV Excimer Lamp technology completely destroys harmful pathogens and viruses within the core of their DNA. safeUV 222nm is not able to penetrate the outer layer of skin or the tear layer in the eye, making it safe for human exposure.

In the image above, a safeUV FlexMount 241 has been installed on the far wall above an occupied gym. Rather than relying on occupants to routinely wipe down equipment or after-hours manual cleaning practices, the safeUV Lamp provides a continuous and non-harmful source of sanitizing light to keep patrons safe and protected from pathogens before, during, and after their routine. The human-safe Far-UV light emitting from the wall-mounted device quickly and efficiently removes airborne pathogens and other harmful microorganisms present on surfaces directly within the light path. Although not recommended to entirely replace manual cleaning methods, no other sanitizing technology can offer a level of real-time protection in occupied spaces such as Far-UV light in safeUV Excimer Lamps. While still in the early stages of mass installation, there are few doubts that this exciting technology will be crucial to building a safer and healthier future.

Applications of Human-Safe 222nm Excimer Lamps

Thanks to the human-safe yet germicidal properties of 222nm Far-UVC light, safeUV Excimer Lamps have wide-ranging applications. Any shared space, especially those that require enhanced sanitization, should consider installing safeUV products to help eradicate airborne pathogens and other bacteria or viruses present on surfaces.

  • Medical Offices: From the waiting room to the operating room, Far-UV lamps are an incredibly viable sanitization method for medical offices. Any healthcare-centric facility that cares about patient health and well-being should strongly consider adding safeUV lamps to their facility as a means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases between patients.
  • Public Spaces: Society, in broad terms, could greatly benefit from widespread installations of Far-UV germicidal lamps in public spaces. Grocery stores, buses, subway stations, fitness centers, and other function halls are all high-traffic environments with a tremendous dependence on sporadic and inefficient cleaning practices. Installing 222nm lamps at entrances/exits, bathrooms, countertops, and ticketing booths could significantly reduce the presence of communicable pathogens.
  • Educational Environments: It is no secret that classrooms are one of the most predominant germ-spreading environments in society. From early childhood care facilities to university campuses, safeUV Excimer Lamps provide unrelenting protection against rapidly spreading germs and bacteria.
  • Social Settings: This may be the the most challenging sector for safeUV to conquer as an investment in continual sanitization technology is not a top priority. However, businesses such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, and even hotels could benefit from a few well-placed 222nm lamps. When installed in bathrooms or kitchens, these social spaces could help reduce the unwanted transfer of germs.

Human Safe Far-UV to Create a Safer Community

As an American manufacturer based in Morgantown, WV, safeUV is committed to creating healthier spaces to live, work, and play for millions of people. Our entire team is dedicated to advancing the applications of human-safe Far-UVC light into readily accessible and affordable products that instantly sanitize air, liquids, and surfaces. Our FlexMount 241 and 241P devices are adaptable, climate-safe, mercury-free, and cost-effective with a 30,000-hour lifespan. Beyond our standard offerings, we are also equipped to develop lamps for specific uses and can adjust accordingly for unique power or dimensional specifications. To learn more about this revolutionary product using human-safe UV-C light, please contact our team today to receive more information or get started on a quote for your next project!