Field study of early implementation of UV sources and their relative effectiveness for public health and safety
The emergence of COVID-19 and its corresponding public health burden has prompted industries to rapidly implement traditional and novel control strategies to mitigate the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, generating a surge of interest and application of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) sources as disinfection systems. With this increased attention the need to evaluate the efficacy and safety of these types of devices is paramount. A field study of the early implementation of UVGI devices was conducted at the Space Needle located in Seattle, Washington. Six devices were evaluated, including four low-pressure (LP) mercury-vapor lamp devices for air and surface sanitation not designed for human exposure and two krypton chloride (KrCl*) excimer lamp devices to be operated on and around humans. Emission spectra and ultraviolet (UV) irradiance at different locations from the UV devices were measured and germicidal effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 was estimated. The human safety of KrCl* excimer devices was also evaluated based on measured irradiance and estimated exposure durations. Our results show all LP devices emitted UV radiation primarily at 254 nm as expected. Both KrCl* excimers emitted far UVC irradiation at 222 nm as advertised but also emitted at longer, more hazardous wavelengths (228 to 262 nm). All LP devices emitted strong UVC irradiance, which was estimated to achieve three log reduction of SARS-CoV-2 within 10 sec of exposure at reasonable working distances. KrCl* excimers, however, emitted much lower irradiance than needed for effective disinfection of SARS-CoV-2 (>90% inactivation) within the typical exposure times. UV fluence from KrCl* excimer devices for employees was below the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) under the reported device usage and work shifts. However, photosensitive individuals, human susceptibility, or exposure to multiple UV sources throughout a worker’s day, were not accounted for in this study. Caution should be used when determining the acceptability of UV exposure to workers in this occupational setting and future work should focus on UVGI sources in public settings.