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Occasionally, in hospitals and in eating establishments in the US, they have industrial grade UV lights in sconces attached to the wall (though they seem to be less prominent as the years go by). I understand the anti-microbial properties of UV light, but are these devices anything more than show pieces?

Have there been any lasting, significant public health gains that have been correlated with the use of UV light in public places?

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Regarding UV lights attached to walls going out of fashion - I'm seeing them more and more over washbasins used on wards, particularly on specialist units. –  Rory M Feb 11 '12 at 10:47
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

There have been some studies regarding the use of intensive UV light installations in surgical wards or other settings as a anti-microbial tool. Generally speaking, these are part of a general interest in non-cleaning based anti-microbials in hospitals, such as UV light, O3-based machines, and copper/silver coated surfaces.

The answer to your question will depend on what you consider "lasting" and "significant". They're a relatively new technology, and haven't had a huge penetration into the market yet, so the only evidence you're likely to find is hospital-sized non-randomized trials.

So basically, the answer to your question, as I read it, is "No, but..."

There hasn't been an opportunity for these technologies to show any sort of lasting, significant reduction in hospital acquired infections. But there is some promise that these types of technologies, and those like them, may help reduce the burden of infections when they're used appropriately. The current state of research is figuring out just how workable they are, how to best use them, and what they can and cannot be expected to do. That kind of evaluation is actually what I'm doing as part of my dissertation work, though my focus is on the general concept, rather than a specific device.

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