Germicidal ultraviolet (GUV) air disinfection (also referred to as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation or “UVGI”), as a control method for the transmission of airborne pathogens, has been used for more than 80 years. In 1942, upper-room GUV (disinfecting the room air by irradiating the air space above head height with air mixing) with 254 nm low-pressure mercury lamps was used very effectively to reduce the transmission of measles (the most infectious virus known) in two Philadelphia suburban schools (1-4). More recently, in the 1980s, it was also common to find UV luminaires in hospital emergency rooms, clinics, waiting rooms and operating theaters, primarily due to a global resurgence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (5). Unfortunately, interest in UV air disinfection waned primarily because drugs and vaccines became available for airborne bacterial and viral diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, mumps and chicken pox (6). However, research continued, leading to significant advances; confirmation of the efficacy and safety of upper-room GUV, new studies with ultraviolet radiation in the wavelength region 200 to 230 nm (dubbed “far-UVC”) and development of ultraviolet-C (UVC) light-emitting diodes (LEDs).


Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Photochemistry and Photobiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Photobiology. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Bergman, R., Brenner, D., Buonanno, M., Eadie, E., Forbes, P., Jensen, P., Nardell, E., Sliney, D., Vincent, R., Welch, D. & Wood, K. 2021, 'Air disinfection with germicidal ultraviolet: for this pandemic and the next', Photochemistry and Photobiology, 97(3), pp. 464-465. https://doi.org/10.1111/php.13424

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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