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Action spectra for validation of pathogen disinfection in medium-pressure ultraviolet (UV) systems



Sara E. Beck, Harold B. Wright, Thomas M. Hargy, Thomas C. Larason, Karl G. Linden


Ultraviolet (UV) reactors used for disinfecting water and wastewater must be validated and monitored over time. The validation process requires understanding the photochemical properties of the pathogens of concern and the challenge microorganisms used to represent them. Specifically for polychromatic UV systems, the organisms' dose responses to UV light and their sensitivity across the UV spectrum must be known. This research measured the UV spectral sensitivity, called action spectra, of Cryptosporidium parvum, and MS2, T1UV, Q Beta, T7, and T7m Coliphages, as well as Bacillus pumilus spores. A tunable laser from the National Institute of Standards and Technology was used to isolate single UV wavelengths at 10 nm intervals between 210 and 290 nm. Above 240 nm, all bacteria and viruses tested exhibited a relative peak sensitivity between 260 and 270 nm. Of the coliphage, MS2 exhibited the highest relative sensitivity below 240 nm, relative to its sensitivity at 254 nm, followed by Q Beta, T1UV, T7m and T7 coliphage. B. pumilus spores were more sensitive to UV light at 220 nm than any of the coliphage. These spectra are required for calculating action spectra correction factors for medium pressure UV system validation, for matching appropriate challenge microorganisms to pathogens, and for improving UV dose monitoring. Additionally, understanding the dose response of these organisms at multiple wavelengths can improve polychromatic UV dose calculations and enable prediction of pathogen inactivation from wavelength-specific disinfection technologies such as UV light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Water Research


Action Spectra, Ultraviolet Light, Water Disinfection, Medium Pressure UV, Low Pressure UV, Cryptosporidium, Giardia


Beck, S. , Wright, H. , Hargy, T. , Larason, T. and Linden, K. (2014), Action spectra for validation of pathogen disinfection in medium-pressure ultraviolet (UV) systems, Water Research, [online],, (Accessed June 12, 2024)


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Created December 11, 2014, Updated October 12, 2021