Among the different options available in air purifiers, UV lights are a controversial addition to air purifiers, due to the different dangers and safety concerns that have come to the forefront about these lights and their production of toxic ozone as a byproduct. There are a variety of different UV lights that are used within air purifiers including UVA, UVB, and UVC lights, all of which work in different ways when placed within these air purification devices.
In this article we are going to discuss everything you should know about UV light air purifiers and learn which UV lights are the safest to utilize in a home air purifier.
What Does UV Light Do
Some air purifiers will contain UV lights that are housed within the air purifier to aid in the removal of bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. However, what are UV lights and how do they work when utilized in an air purifier? UV light is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that makes up all wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, such as light, radio waves, and x-rays. According to the American Cancer Society, they state the following about UV light, “UV lights can come from a variety of man-made sources including sunlamps and sun beds (tanning beds and booths), phototherapy, black-light lamps, and mercury-vapor lamps”. According to a report by Appl Environ Microbial, it stated the following about the use of UV lights for use in disinfecting indoor environments;
“Recently, there have been renewed interest in the application of germicidal UV irradiation to disinfect indoor environments for control of infectious diseases in the hospitals, other health care facilities, and public shelters.”
When UV lights are applied into an air purifier it usually is placed within the purifier to help eliminate airborne pathogens in the air, which is a beneficial characteristic to any air purification device. The UV lights will aid in assisting our health, specifically germicidal light like UV-C lights which are capable of killing bacteria and viruses when these microorganisms make contact with the light.
What Does UV Stand For
The UV lights that are placed in an air purifier stand for ultraviolet, a radiation that is generated by the sun and sent into the atmosphere. The lights are invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun, and these rays are responsible for the burning of the skin and even skin cancer in some cases, according to MedicineNet. UV radiation consists of three different types of rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC lights, each of which will act differently and result in certain effects when present in the environment.
How Does UV Light Work
The process of how these UV lights work in an air purifier can depend based on the different types of UV light that is used in the machine (UVA, UVB, and UVC). The UV lights are an essential feature that gives an air purifier the ability to effectively kill cells such as microorganisms that are found traveling in the air like mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. The process of how UV lights work, according to LiveScience is when the UV lights are utilized they will harm cells by destroying nucleic acids and potentially disrupting their DNA, this will either kill them or leave cells incapacitated. The longer the exposure occurs between these microorganisms and UV lights the cells will practically be rendered useless to perform their vital functions.
Ultraviolet UV Light Uses and Dangers
It may be surprising to learn of the many different uses of UV lights in everyday products such as commercial, industrial, and healthcare settings. The UV lights are used in these industries to disinfect viruses and bacteria, hygiene and infection control, and tanning and skin treatments.
- Tanning and Skin Treatments: UV light is used for tanning and can be directly used to shadow the effects of the sun and its rays on human skin. It has become a more popular trend for people to sunbathe indoors rather than outdoors due to the even tan that one will receive from the use of UV rays in a tanning bed. Additionally, tanning outside will require more time to tan the skin as opposed to the effects of indoor sunbathing using UV tanning beds. These UV tanning booths, however, utilize potentially dangerous types of UV light such as UVA, a harmful ray that can potentially damage DNA.
- Fluorescent Inspection: Another use of UV lights can be to inspect various materials and surfaces. Materials can have different reactions when exposed to different types of light such as UV lights. Many substances will absorb the UV light’s energy and produce it into visible light known as fluorescence. This light will illuminate a material to inspect it for splits, breaks, and other issues within the material.
- Disinfection and Germ Control: The use of UV light can also be utilized for disinfection such as disinfecting drinking water. This is an effective process that is free of chemicals and can work efficiently to destroy bacteria. The light will ultimately inhibit the bacteria’s ability to reproduce, and therefore stopping the growth of bacteria in the water.
- Air Cleaning: There are many pollutants including microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and mold spores that can significantly affect the indoor air quality of a home or other personal indoor environment. When you install an air purifier with UV lights it can aid in the impediment of these airborne microorganisms from tainting your air quality. Certain UV lights have the capability to kill mold spores, mildew, germs, viruses, and bacteria that can find their way into the indoor air. Typically, this type of UV light is combined with HEPA filtration to effectively aid in the capturing of these organisms within the air purification device.
Although there are many benefits to the use of ultraviolet lights, including all the uses we listed above. There are, however, some risks that are associated with UV lights and exposure to this light, according to the Texas State Finance and Support Services. Their safety manual labeled Environmental Health, Safety, & Risk Management: Ultraviolet Lamps describes the effects from ultraviolet light as the following;
“Exposure to UV radiation can cause extreme discomfort and serious injury. Therefore, you must protect your eyes and skin from exposure to this light, both direct and reflected exposure. The effects of UV radiation overexposure depends on UV dosage, wave length, portion of body exposed, and the sensitivity of the individual.”
Difference Between UVA UVB and UVC
A major factor to take into account when deciding on an air purifier for your home is to determine if it has UV lights within this device and what kind of UV light it is that it utilized, between UVA, UVB, and UVC. These three types of UV radiation are characterized according to their wavelengths, as well as their different activity when it comes to penetrating the skin. When it comes to determining which type of UV light to have inside of your home’s air purifier, it is best to understand the different effects of each UV light in the environment.
- UVA light: UVA is the long-wave light that accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. This type of light is often used in tanning beds, as this light can penetrate the skin’s second layer. When it comes to the human skin, UVA light plays a major role in skin aging and wrinkling and contributing to some types of sun damage.
- UVB light: UVB light is the major cause behind skin reddening and sunburns that can occur on the human body after sun exposure. This light often leads to damage to the skin’s top layers and is strongly linked to some skin cancers. Additionally, UVB can damage the skin’s DNA and will burn the unprotected skin in as quickly as 15 minutes.
- UVC light: The shortest of all UV rays, UVC light never reaches the earth because the ozone absorbs it. This type of light is not usually considered a risk for skin cancer and can be found in many man-made sources like mercury lamps and welding torches.
Is UV C Safe in Air Purifier?
UV air purifiers, as we discussed earlier, are specifically designed to serve as a layer of protection from potentially harmful pathogens and microorganisms in the air such as bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. In most cases, UV air purifiers will typically utilize UV C lights within their housing, due to the functions that this form of UV light provides when used within this type of an air filtration system.
Is UV C safe in air purifier? UV C lights placed in air purifiers today work through a specific mechanism to act as germicidal irradiation for the air. When air passes through the UV lamps it will disinfect certain microorganisms in the air to aid in the improvement of the indoor air quality. One concern, however, of UV lights in air purifier is the potential for this light to produce ozone, when produced within certain wavelength ranges.
Selecting a UV-C Air Purifier That Does Not Produce Ozone
When it comes to selecting an air purifier for your home, nobody wants to place an air device into their home that can potentially release or emit a harmful substance into their air, such as ozone. UVC lights or germicidal UV are at a much more specific wavelength than what is termed “UV” broadly, which encompasses the wavelength of 100-380 nm. UVC are low-pressure lamps, more like a fluorescent lamp, with a specific wavelength of 253.7 nm (1182.5 THz). The production of ozone from UV lights, the light wavelength would need to be at a specific range of 160 to 240 nm. Some air purifiers will fall between this range where ozone will eventually be produced into the airspace of the environment, this can be a potential hazard to both your indoor environment and the health of those who are exposed to this byproduct in the air, particularly in higher levels.
The EnviroKlenz UV Air Purifier, on the other hand, is an air purification system that utilizes ultraviolet germicidal radiation (UV C) but this light has been tested to determine that this specific UV C light does not produce ozone into the air. The EnviroKlenz UV Air Purifier has a wavelength of 254 nm, which is outside the ozone producing range. Additionally, the UV C lights contained in this air purifier is effectively able to shine on the collection of microorganisms such as mold spores, bacteria, and viruses, that are collected on top of the hospital-grade HEPA filter, situated below the UV C lamps within this air purifier.
- Appl Environ Microbiol: Effectiveness of Germicidal UV Radiation for Reducing Fungal Contamination within Air-Handling Units (link)
- MedicineNet: Medical Definition of UV Radiation (link)
- LiveScience: What is Ultraviolet Light? (link)
- Urban Cartography: Top 5 Uses for a UV Lamp and Ultraviolet Light (link)
- Texas State Environmental Health, Safety, & Risk Management: Ultraviolet Lamps (link)
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