Safety of upper-room ultraviolet germicidal air disinfection for room occupants: results from the Tuberculosis Ultraviolet Shelter Study

Public Health Rep. 2008 Jan-Feb;123(1):52-60. doi: 10.1177/003335490812300108.


Objectives: We evaluated the safety of room occupants in the Tuberculosis Ultraviolet Shelter Study (TUSS), a double-blind, placebo-controlled field trial of upper-room ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) at 14 homeless shelters in six U.S. cities from 1997 to 2004.

Methods: Data collection involved administering questionnaires regarding eye and skin irritation to a total of 3,611 staff and homeless study subjects.

Results: Among these subjects, there were 223 reports of eye or skin symptoms. During the active UV period, 95 questionnaires (6%) noted such symptoms, and during the placebo period, 92 questionnaires (6%) did so. In the 36 remaining cases, either the UV period when symptoms took place was unknown or the symptoms spanned both periods. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of reports of symptoms between the active and placebo periods. One definite instance of UV-related keratoconjunctivitis occurred, resulting from a placement of a bunk bed in a dormitory where a single bed had been used when the UV fixtures were first installed.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that careful application of upper-room UVGI can be achieved without an apparent increase in the incidence of the most common side effects of accidental UV overexposure.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Keratoconjunctivitis / etiology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / radiation effects*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / etiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / prevention & control
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*