UV LEDs. UV light sanitizers
Ultraviolet LEDs via Wikimedia Commons

The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has reminded us all to keep our surroundings sanitary. It has also led to appalling waste of disposable items. So consider ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizers as an environmentally friendly alternative.

COVID-19 may be a new virus, but viruses are an old problem. We’ve learned from flu vaccines that scientists must try to predict in advance which strains will infect the most people in the coming season. If they predict wrong, more people will come down with flu.

Even without the flu to worry about, you can still get colds. Many people have allergies or other serious respiratory conditions that make breathing difficult. Vaccines have no effect on dust mites, molds, and other irritants. 

Once flu season is over, your need for disinfectant will not be over. Allergies last year round, and pests like fleas and bedbugs can turn up any time. It’s hard to find disinfectant sprays and wipes now. Even after markets return to normal, UV light sanitizers will be the superior choice.

Toxic disinfectants

Advertisements for various antimicrobial and antiviral disinfectants abound. Do you know what makes them work?

  • Chlorine bleach, an indoor air pollutant that damages our lungs
  • Ammonia, another known lung irritant
  • Triclosan, added to hand soaps and too many other products. With antibacterial hand soap, they don’t stay in contact with your skin long enough to kill germs—just long enough to let them build up immunity to it.
  • Ammonium quaternary compounds, known to induce asthma and linked to breast cancer and hormonal imbalance
  • Nano-silver, tiny particles that can penetrate deep into the body, where silver is toxic to the liver and brain 

As living organisms, human beings and germs are closely related enough that what is bad for germs is ultimately not good for us, either. The trouble with chemical disinfectants is that they leave a residue and enter the air. We have to breathe them. The concentration is not enough to kill us, but it can inflict damage over time.

What’s more sanitary wipes are  single-use, disposable products. They contribute to the glut of trash overwhelming landfills. Or worse yet, wind up as litter. 

About UV light sanitizers

UV light likewise kills germs. It also causes sunburn and sun-related cancers in humans and pets, among other diseases. Fortunately, it is possible to expose germs, insect eggs, mold, mildew, etc. to ultraviolet light without exposing ourselves. 

Hospitals have been using UV light sanitizers to kill bacteria and viruses for probably about a century. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are interested in using them at home. They also help in keeping offices, restaurants, and schools sanitary.

The sun gives off three kinds of ultraviolet light. UV-C is the most potent of them. It destroys DNA. Fortunately, the Earth’s ozone layer filters it out before it reaches the surface. Otherwise, it would kill everything. Safety therefore requires controlling the UV-C light to make sure it does not shine on people, pets, or desirable plants. 

UV light sanitizers designed for home use are unregulated. Some manufacturers send their machines to labs for testing. I have seen reviews of some equipment by doctors who have tested the equipment they are reviewing. Nonetheless, evidence of their effectiveness is mostly anecdotal. 

According to an article in WebMD, it’s hard to invent UV-C technology that’s both safe and effective. Therefore, the best products tend to be expensive—up to $500. The article says that the less expensive products don’t work well. Expect to spend at least $150 for anything but a wand. 

Another problem? People who buy them may not use them carefully. It takes time for UV light to kill. A quick scan of a surface with a UV sanitizing light wand won’t do much damage to the germs. 

Here are reviews of three different UV technologies.