Moving beyond dangerous UV-C with LED antimicrobial light

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us in deadly ways the urgent need to drastically improve methods for antiviral and antibacterial protection in all environments.

SaveMoneyCutCarbon is starkly aware that while research teams across the globe continue to work night and day answers to the current crisis, there are weaknesses in our defence systems against germs worldwide.

Using lightwaves in the UV spectrum as a disinfection solution to destroy micro-organisms has been applied for decades, particularly in healthcare settings

The most commonly recognised light disinfection method harnesses the UV-C (250nm) wavelength to cause photodegradation of DNA, which results in cell death. But there is wealth of evidence that this type of disinfection is especially harmful to all cells, including cells within the human body, animals and plants.

And it is this deadly side-effect that has constrained UV-C’s usefulness, limiting where and when it can and should be used.

‘Very hazardous’

As the globally respected International Commission on Illumination (CIE) advises in a recent COVID-19 position statement on UV radiation uses:

“UV-C can be very hazardous to humans and animals and therefore can only be used in properly constructed products that meet safety regulations, or in very controlled circumstances where safety is taken into account as the first priority, ensuring that the limits of exposure as specified in ICNIRP (2004) and IEC/CIE (2006) are not exceeded. For proper UV assessment and risk management, appropriate UV measurements are essential.”

The CIE also comments that UV-C is extremely useful in disinfection of air and surfaces or sterilisation of water but both it and CIE and the World Health Organisation warn against the use of UV disinfection lamps to disinfect hands or any other area of skin unless clinically justified.

The commission warns that UV-C sources often emit radiation that includes various wavelengths outside the UV-C range, which can also be potentially harmful. Some UV-C products may additionally emit UV-B or UV-A, and some UV disinfection sources declared as UV-C sources may not even emit UV-C.

The report advises:

“As the exposure to UV from such products may increase the risk of skin cancer, protective measures have to be taken to minimize this risk. In normal use, UV sources secured inside ductwork for recirculated air or used for water sterilization should not present a risk of exposure to people.

“When working in a UV-irradiated zone, workers shall wear personal protective equipment such as industrial clothing (e.g. heavy fabric), and industrial face protection (e.g. face shields) (ICNIRP, 2010). Full-face respirators (CIE, 2006) and hand protection by disposable gloves (CIE, 2007) are also protective against UV.”

Degrading UV

It is also well documented that UV light can significantly degrade the condition of many different types of materials, such as plastics, making them brittle and subject to cracking and failure. While this is not deadly, the results can be expensive.

Taken together, the potential with UV-C is for conditions where both people and environments are under threat.

While UV-C will continue to have a place in the armoury against disease and infection, we need to turn to solutions that, while deadly for germs and viruses, are benign for all beings.

SaveMoneyCutCarbon has researched the markets for solutions, and it is only recently that the antimicrobial properties of visible light have been applied to combat environmental contamination and the spread of disease and infection, led by pioneering companies like Vital Vio.

Antimicrobial LED light

The antimicrobial LED lighting developed by the company harnesses specific wavelengths of visible light to excite certain molecules found in the cells of bacteria, mould and fungi, but not in those of humans, pets and plants. When the molecules are excited it causes a toxic reaction within the cell that leads to microbe death.

Vyv antimicrobial light technology meets the international standard for continuous and unrestricted use around people, pets and plants.

The company’s CEO, Colleen Costello says:

“COVID-19 reminds us that we are a global community, and as such it’s critical that we create a sustainable, scalable defence system that can pre-empt dramatic and reactive medical and community interventions.

”Eliminating — or at least reducing — the threat posed by bacteria and viruses needs to become a global priority to ensure a healthier world for generations to come.”


The threat of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” is a real and present danger, to the extent that the WHO issued for the first time in its history a clear warning in 2017 (and again this year) that the threat was growing. And from an American perspective, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last year that 3 million Americans face antibiotic-resistant infections every year, resulting in an estimated 35,000 deaths.

The extent of the threat we are all facing cannot be ignored. As Robert R. Redfield, CDC director, says in the report:

“Stop referring to a coming post-antibiotic era—it’s already here. You and I are living in a time when some miracle drugs no longer perform miracles and families are being ripped apart by a microscopic enemy. The time for action is now and we can be part of the solution.”

But UV-C is not the magic-bullet solution, particularly for the consumer market. The CIE advises that as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, many UV-C products promising efficient disinfection of surfaces and air are being launched.

It notes that these consumer products tend to be marketed as handheld devices and it is concerned that users of such devices may be exposed to harmful amounts of UV-C and may use UV products inappropriately, thereby not disinfecting effectively – or they might be buying products that do not actually emit UV-C.

Tune and refine light

LED lighting gives developers, like Vyv the capacity to tune and refine light to exacting frequencies, angles and distances from targets. This new approach has created a totally new class of antimicrobial solutions, all very effective in a wide range of applications in many different industries, from healthcare, food safety, pharmaceuticals and biotech to consumer goods and services, travel and transportation, agriculture and many more.

What’s more, the antimicrobial LED technology remains effective even after white light is added and that means it can be fitted anywhere that also needs normal illumination for people to work and live. With the very significant difference that at the same time the environment is benefitting from its antimicrobial properties.

This “always on” approach is easily integrated into existing cleaning protocols. So, while the technology is disruptive in the sense of being innovative, it is anything but disruptive in its practical application as a continuous cleaning and pathogen-killing component.

Vyv has commercialised and patented the antimicrobial white light system that has a sizeable energy distribution of the 400-420nm wavelengths but still emits white light. These lights can be used as regular overhead illumination systems while also producing a sufficient intensity of the 400-420nm wavelengths to reduce environmental microbial contamination.

Continuous use

The use of antimicrobial white light in these lighting systems allows for continuous use and exposure in occupied areas, simultaneously reducing the microbial surface bioburden over time, without impacting facility operations or surface materials within the environment.

Colleen Costello says:

“This war on germs now extends beyond our medical community and into our boardrooms, our public places, our workplaces and our homes. Yes, it starts with critical awareness and informed education about how not to transmit infections between each other. But it also demands a new set of 21st century tools for a multi-layered defence system that exponentially improves upon intermittent cleaning, handwashing and reliance on antibiotics.

“Germs are getting stronger and more complicated with the growth of our increasingly global economy and our warming planet. Certain environments where people gather and where there are unacceptably high bioburdens — like the subway, healthcare facilities and public gathering places — now need new approaches to making these places inhospitable to germs and harmful microbes.”


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Vyv –

World Health Organisation


[The Efficacy of Antimicrobial LED Light


Highlight of research into the effectiveness of the properties of a new class of antimicrobial light, which is found in the visible light spectrum (400-420nm).

A research team at Duke University and the University of North Carolina concluded that continuous use of antimicrobial light technology could be considered for multiple healthcare decontamination applications, including Operating Rooms. Additionally, they felt that given that environmental surfaces in patients’ rooms—and certainly other surfaces throughout the hospital environment—are often either not thoroughly disinfected or that recontamination occurs rapidly, it is important to apply other methods to create persistent antimicrobial effectiveness.

HP Hood, a Massachusetts-based dairy company:

to understand the efficacy of antimicrobial light in a food manufacturing and processing environment. The company’s R&D division was interested in investigating two aspects of its efficacy: to prevent the growth of a variety of microbial species that would be highly problematic if present during the manufacturing process and the effect of antimicrobial light on materials used in the manufacturing environment.

The desired outcome would be to validate these lights as able to diminish or eliminate bacterial contamination from the manufacturing process, without negatively impacting the condition of the equipment in use.

Of the nine (projectable) microbial species tested against Vyv’s Antimicrobial Lights all showed 90% or 99% reductions in bacterial counts compared to the control cultures. The results of these experiments demonstrate the ability of Vyv’s technology to play a role in reducing the presence of pathogens and spoilage microbes that are relevant to food and dairy processing.


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