What is UV Radiation Used For | The History | PP-L


A brief history of UV light in health and medicine


UV radiation was discovered in 1801 when the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter observed that invisible rays just beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum darkened silver chloride-soaked paper more quickly than violet light itself. He called them deoxidising rays to emphasise chemical reactivity and to distinguish them from heat rays, discovered the previous year at the other end of the visible spectrum. The simpler term chemical rays was adopted soon afterwards, and remained popular throughout the 19th century


Arthur Downes and Thomas Blunt published a paper describing the sterilisation of bacteria exposed to short-wavelength light. UV has been a known mutagen at the cellular level for over 100 years.


The Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Niels Finsen for his use of UV against lupus vulgaris, tuberculosis on the skin.


UV-C was first used to disinfect the municipal water supply of Marseille, France.


Westinghouse developed the first commercial UV-C germicidal lamps. They were used primarily in hospitals. World War II, UV-C was used for sterilising air in hospitals, kitchens, meat storage and processing plants, bakeries, breweries, dairies, beverage production, pharmaceutical plants and animal labs - anywhere microbiological contamination was a concern.

Our partner, sterilAir AG was established in 1939.


UV-C was incorporated into air handling equipment. It became a major component in the control and eradication of tuberculosis. The first self-produced devices with up to four UV-C light bulbs were installed in rooms with a high number of people.


During the 1960s, public awareness of microorganisms increased as new drugs and sterilising cleaners became available. But increasing popularity in mechanical ventilation reduces the demand for UV-C air disinfection systems.

1970s & 80s

With significant developments in UV-C disinfection technology and concerns over the excess use of chemical disinfection, UV-C technology regains popularity among organisations requiring a high level of hygiene.


UV-C was first used for large scale water treatment processing for municipal systems as well as for treatment of swimming pools. The first use of UV-C within HVAC systems was also pioneered in 1996, proving to be effective in the elimination of vaccine and antibiotic resistant "super-bugs" in hospitals.

In 1994, PP-L founder and chartered engineer, Paul Waldeck founded a consultancy specialising in designing safety critical environments in pharmaceuticals, biosciences, food manufacture, laboratories, nuclear, and rail.


Over 20+ years, Paul Waldeck built his consultancy to be a global technology leader in hygiene critical sectors as well as supporting organisations in conventional built environments such as offices, hotels, residential, ports, airports, logistics and manufacturing.

During the SARS pandemic of 2003, our UV-C products were successfully deployed to hospitals to reduce transmission risk. These disinfection systems proved effective, helping to protect high risk settings.


Recent technological advancements have made it possible for UV-C disinfection technology to be deployed in an ever expanding field of applications including disinfection for water, air and surfaces.

Following the successful use of UV-C products during the SARS pandemic, sterilAir AG joins an exclusive partnership agreement with Pathogen Prevention Ltd (PP-L) for the UK market.

With the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and 2020, as increasing evidence shows the importance of aerosol transmission, several scientific studies demonstrate the effectiveness of UV-C in COVID-19 disinfection, both on surfaces and in the air.

In May 2020, PP-L was fast-tracked onto the UK Government Coronavirus (Covid-19) response list of key suppliers under the Medical Category, managed by The Crown Commercial Service (CCS)

Now with PP-L:

Through our global strategic partnerships, our leading manufacturers, scientists and expert consultants in the fields of DNA, RNA and the Human Genome, Pathogen Prevention Ltd are uniquely positioned to provide its customers with the world’s leading UV-C germicidal products, tailored, blended, and bespoke to meet their specific needs. To request more information or to discuss your specific requirements then please contact us on 0800 471 4871

Over the past 80 years our technologies and products have been proven to kill 99.99% of pathogens in high risk environments.

PP-L are proud to be members of the ‘International Ultraviolet Association’ which allows us to keep abreast of the advancing sciences, engineering and applications of ultraviolet technologies to enhance the quality of human life and protect our environments.

PP-L supplies all its products with the ISO 9001, CE and RoHS Certified marks. These show that the manufacturer has checked that these products meet safety, health, environmental, quality requirements, including all electrical regulations, fire prevention regulations, and all relevant EU legislative directives. All design and installations, likewise, comply with EU and local territory requirements for the UK.