To successfully relay the benefits of UV disinfection systems to customers, distributor sales reps first need a thorough understanding of UV technology and how it works.

Ultraviolet light in the C spectrum (UV-C) is an invisible energy with a wavelength of 200 to 400 nanometers. (The optimum wavelength to destroy microorganisms is 254 nanometers.) Because UV-C light is absorbed by the ozone layer, it isn’t harmful to humans. But when used for surface disinfection it inactivates pathogens by disrupting their DNA so that they can no longer grow or reproduce. Without the ability to reproduce, microorganisms are no longer infectious and die.

Today, there are two types of UV disinfection systems on the market: One uses xenon, an environmentally friendly inert gas, and the other uses mercury vapor light. While there are approximately 50 companies that use mercury vapor lamps to create continuous UV-C light, Xenex Disinfection Services focuses on using pulsed xenon.

“We use extremely high-voltage pulses of electricity that heat the gas into a very bright pulse of xenon light, which disables the cell’s DNA,” says Ryan Williams, executive vice president of operations for Xenex, San Antonio.

According to manufacturers, UV disinfection systems are user friendly and safe to operate. After setting up the device, the user exits the room and shuts the door before activating the system. After the cycle is complete, the machine shuts down, at which point the user can move it to the next location. If someone enters the room during the cycle, the machine will shut down immediately.

Setup times and cycle times vary, depending on the type of system. Diversey, for example, has a system with articulating arms for targeted placement that achieves 3- to 5-log reductions for most pathogens in three minutes and for C. diff in 10 minutes at a depth of 11 feet. It requires one cycle on each side of the patient bed and another cycle in the bathroom. Xenex’s pulsed xenon UV robot, on the other hand, can kill 99.9 percent of C. diff spores in five minutes within a 6.5-foot radius, says Williams.

Like Diversey and Xenex’s systems, most UV devices require more than one cycle of UV light to completely disinfect a patient room. But there are some systems that require only one cycle. Tru-D’s units deliver one dose of UV energy to disinfect every surface, including high-touched shadowed areas.

“Our device isn’t locked into distance,” says Cathy Campbell, director of program management for Tru-D, St. Memphis, Tennessee. “It measures the energy in the room to determine how long it takes to irradiate all surfaces. So when we turn on our device it takes about 19 to 23 minutes to disinfect the entire patient room.”

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