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NEWS
Researchers Test Vacuum With UV Light
February 1, 2011

New research suggests that the addition of ultraviolet (UV) light to the brushing and suction of a vacuum cleaner can almost double the removal of potentially infectious microorganisms from a carpet’s surface when compared to vacuuming alone.

Researchers say the findings suggest that incorporating the germicidal properties of UV light into vacuuming might have promise in reducing allergens and pathogens from carpets, as well.

“What this tells us is there is a commercial vacuum with UV technology that’s effective at reducing surface microbes. This has promise for public health, but we need more data,” said Timothy Buckley, associate professor and chair of environmental health sciences at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

The research appears online in the journal “Environmental Science & Technology”.

For this study, Prof. Buckley and colleagues tested a commercially available upright vacuum cleaner, evaluating separately and in combination the standard beater-bar, or rotating brush, as well as a lamp that emits germicidal radiation.

UV-C light with a wavelength of 253.7 nanometers has been studied extensively for its disinfection properties in water, air and food and on a variety of surfaces. This is the first study of its effects on carpet surfaces.

Overall, vacuuming alone reduced microbes by 78 percent, UV-C light alone produced a 60 percent reduction in microbes, and the combination of beater-bar vacuuming and UV-C light reduced microbes on the carpet surfaces by 87 percent. When looking at the microbe quantities, the researchers found that, on average, vacuuming alone removed 7.3 colony-forming units of microbes per contact plate and the UV-C light removed 6.6 colony-forming units per plate. The combination of UV-C light and vacuuming yielded the largest reduction in colony-forming units: 13 per plate.

Most natural UV-C rays from the sun are absorbed in the atmosphere, but long-term exposure to artificial UV-C sources can cause skin and eye damage. The vacuum has been engineered to prevent exposure to harmful radiation from the UV-C lamp, Prof. Buckley said.

Upright vacuum retail prices generally range from about $100 to $900. The equipment in this study falls within that range.

This work was supported through a contract with Halo Technologies Inc. of Des Plaines, Ill., which supplied the vacuum technology.


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