who knows anything about effectiveness of UV sterilization?
March 28, 2020 12:35 PM   Subscribe

For obvious reasons we are interested in the idea of UV radiation to help clean and sanitize our homes, offices, and most importantly areas where medical treatment is provided.

Curious if any has any experience with UV radiation and/or answers to the following:
- how does stertilization/cleaning work exactly, how much time is needed to ensure microbes and viruses have been extinguished?
- how effective it is?
- how do you know if an area has been fully cleaned/sterilized? is there a way to test before and after?

looking at companies and products like: https://www.cureuv.com/
posted by specialk420 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This literature review found that the evidence that supported using portable UV light sources as a sterilization technique, focusing on c. difficile, was mixed at best.
We are unable to make a firm conclusion about the effectiveness of this technology on hospital acquired infections given the very low to low quality of evidence. The budget impact estimates are sensitive to assumptions made about the number of UV disinfecting devices purchased per hospital, frequency of daytime use, and staff time required per use.
posted by rockindata at 1:09 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

UV Light Technology is a UK company that makes UV lights for industrial sterilization purposes. They have a blog
One of their employees was recently by the BBC about using UV light to disinfect people. "You would literally be frying people," sa[id] Dan Arnold, laughing in disbelief.

I also found a discussion with some references on Quora.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

While UV light can be used to inactivate a wide range of human pathogens including a coronavirus like SARS-CoV-2, it is unlikely to be practical for the purpose of sanitizing homes or offices. UV light of sufficient intensity will degrade common materials like plastic, requires special safety precautions, and requires an uninterrupted "light of sight" from all surfaces to a UV source. If you're curious to see the complications involved in using UV light for decontamination, Nebraska Medicine has published detailed procedures for effectively using UV to decontaminate N95 masks for reuse.
posted by RichardP at 2:08 PM on March 28, 2020 [11 favorites]

A married couple I know, both doctors, have a towel warmer that uses a germicidal UV lamp, and they use it to nuke masks that the wife brings home from work. The husband works at home as he's already immune-compromised for other reasons, but he is satisfied by its performance.

I would say you could use it with things, preferably metal things, but not people (UV-B and UV-C = no bueno). It will degrade plastic, but plastic is also cheap, so you should weigh the short-term benefits against the longer-term consequences.

I was telling him the other day you can use an Instant Pot to sterilize things, and he said, "That's nice; maybe that means I can cook in this thing," and sent a picture of the autoclave he keeps in his home office. This guy sterilizes! So I trust his judgment about the towel warmer.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:16 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was curious earlier today whether sunlight would kill SARS-CoV-2 on my one N95 mask. The search turned up a lot of discussion of UV, as you'd expect. WRT SARS-CoV-2, the answers were not encouraging about UV killing it. As for sunlight, a couple of sites outright said it wouldn't kill the virus.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:55 PM on March 28, 2020

A post on reddit may help your research:

autonomous hospital cleaning UV robot

The company is UVD Robots.
posted by tinker at 3:22 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here is an article I read recently about UV robots that spends a fair amount of time talking about the mechanism that UV lights use to kill viruses (uv lights disrupt the dna of viruses so they're unable to reproduce).

I also concluded from this article that there was no consumer level device that I could buy and reasonably use that would be both effective as a coronavirus disenfectant AND be safe for me to use. So, i am sticking with hand washing and disenfectants.
posted by Karaage at 5:26 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

BBC link
posted by Chitownfats at 11:55 AM on March 29, 2020

Response by poster: @all - thanks for all the great info and links. ask.metafilter at its best.
posted by specialk420 at 8:30 PM on March 29, 2020

It looks like the FDA has allowed a company to start selling mask decontamination by vaporizing hydrogen peroxide -- though there are enough political shenanigans happening around this that I couldn't say whether they actually feel more confident in the hydrogen peroxide box or if the're just afraid of the president.

Chiming in late with this, but I would say: UV disinfection isn't snake oil. It's been used a lot agriculturally, and maybe is the reason why factory farming hasn't already killed us all. Apparently UV was effective against the last SARS virus, but the hospitals messing around with UV right now are only doing it because they don't have enough PPE and have decided that (potentially) partially sanitized equipment is still better than none at all. Taking something that has been effective + adding stronger UV + increasing the time is better than nothing. If you are a regular person who are not in constant contact with infected people, I'm not sure UV would help you much.

That said! If you are sheltering at home and things have started to smell weird, maybe invest in a UV fan. I have one, and they can be great for killing mold/germs in the air.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2020

NEVER trust explanations/data about UV from sites selling UV equipment/robots/whatever.

ONLY trust material backed up by actual lab tests.
posted by MacD at 3:09 AM on March 31, 2020

I think Big Clive put it best: Awesome flesh-burning death lamp
posted by scruss at 2:46 PM on April 2, 2020

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