Evaluation of a Handheld UV Disinfection Unit

Timmermann LF, Ritter K, Hillebrandt D, Küpper T. Drinking water treatment with ultraviolet light for travelers – Evaluation of a mobile lightweight systemTravel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2015 Nov 6. pii: S1477-8939(15)00174-X. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2015.10.005.

BACKGROUND: The SteriPEN® is a handheld device for disinfecting water with ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The manufacturer claims a reduction of at least 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. The present study intends to verify the general effectiveness of the device. Furthermore, the influence of bottle geometry and water movement is examined and the issue of user safety with regard to UV-C radiation is addressed.

METHODS: The device was applied on water containing a known number of microorganisms (Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and the spore of Geobacillusstearothermophilus) and the survival rate was examined. Three different types of bottles commonly used among travelers served as test containers. All tests were conducted with and without agitating the water during irradiation. Furthermore, a spectral analysis was performed on the light of the device.

RESULTS: The SteriPEN® reached a mean reduction of more than 99.99% of bacteria and 99.57% of the spores when applied correctly. However, the results of the trials without agitating the water only yielded a 94.98% germ reduction. The device’s maximal radiation intensity lies at 254 nm which is the wavelength most efficient in inactivating bacteria. The UV-C fraction is filtered out completely by common bottle materials. However, when applied in larger containers a portion of the UV-C rays exits the water surface.

CONCLUSIONS: If applied according to the instructions the device manages a satisfactory inactivation of bacteria. However, it bears the danger of user errors relevant to health. Therefore, education on the risks of incorrect application should be included in the travel medical consultation. Also there are still aspects that need to be subject to further independent research.

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