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Delving Deeper Into the History of UV-C Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into urgent focus the ways that proper hand washing, social distancing, mask wearing, and UV-sanitizer use can significantly reduce the spread of an invisible and deadly virus. UV-C technology, specifically, is an effective technology for eradicating microorganisms before they have the chance to invade your system. This article will not only explain what UV-C technology is, but will also examine its history as a means for understanding its undeniable relevance today.

Mask under blue light

What is UV-C technology?

Generally, UV light can be classified into three wavelength-dependent categories: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C light encompasses the shortest wavelengths ranging from 100 nanometers (nm) to 280nm. Unlike UV-A and UV-B, UV-C light is considered germicidal and has been used to combat superbugs that are already resistant to certain antibiotics.

A wavelength of 254 nm will deactivate microorganismal DNA and render pathogens harmless by destroying their ability to multiply and cause disease. UV-C light targets the nucleic acids of bacteria and viruses by forming covalent bonds between certain adjacent bases in their DNA. The formation of these bonds prevents the DNA from being unzipped for replication, which is what prohibits the organism from further reproduction. It thus becomes impossible for them to thrive, especially when subjected to prolonged UV-C light exposure.

Although UV-C technology is a good mechanism for defense against the uncontrollable spread of COVID-19, it must be used with caution as the light itself can be harmful to the eyes and skin.  It should be understood that no UV light device should be a substitute for hand washing, mask-wearing and distancing. UV sanitizers should only be used on surfaces.

How was UV-C technology discovered?

Using germicidal lamps to kill various types of microorganisms is a concept that dates back to the 1800s as bacteria, yeast, mold and viruses were all identified as known air contaminants. The birth of actual UV-C technology was in 1845 when scientists were able to prove that microorganisms were responding to the light. Further support for this was yielded by an 1877  experiment that exposed test tubes containing Pasteur’s solution to sunlight. As exposure durations were increased, the test tubes remained bacteria-free for several months.

In 1903, Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine for his use of UV light in the fight against Tuberculosis. William F. Wells was the first to discover the spread of airborne infection by droplet nuclei, subsequently using UV-C technology to prevent that spread. By the mid-20th century, sanitizing with UV light had become prominent and we see its use even more today in hospitals, clinics, offices, and other facilities. UV sanitizing wands like Guardex’s Disinfecting UV-C Pen make this type of defense accessible and portable, enabling people to live their daily lives with confidence and peace of mind. 

What We Can Take Away

The history of UV-C technology helps us to understand its application in UV sanitizers. UV sanitizers are one of the most efficient and effective tools we currently have in our defense arsenal against COVID-19 and its spread. UV light has long been used to disinfect surfaces and water, with a proven, indisputable success rate.