How well does technology safeguard pharmaceutical purified water from microorganisms?

Published: 4-Mar-2024

UV technology has been developed to avoid introducing chemical agents to water, but how does UV work and what is its true effectiveness? Terry Gooderham from Nuvonic Pharma dives into this question

Within the pharmaceutical industry, the significance of water purity in various operational processes cannot be overstated.

Traditional methods of water disinfection frequently involve the use of chemical agents, a practice that, while effective, carries the potential risk of introducing unwanted by-products or altering the taste of the water itself.

However, there exists a pioneering solution that not only ensures the highest level of water purity but also aligns with the industry's sustainability and environmental goals - Ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection.

How UV light battles microbes in pharma water systems

At the heart of UV technology's prowess is its ability to combat microorganisms effectively. UV light works by disrupting the DNA of bacteria and other microorganisms, rendering them incapable of replicating.

Within pharmaceutical water treatment plants, UV technology is strategically applied in two primary areas.

In the production of Purified Water, UV serves as the final treatment step on the Purified Water generation skid, ensuring that the water produced is free from harmful microorganisms.

The primary application of UV technology involves its installation as a component of the Storage & Distribution skid

The primary application of UV technology involves its installation as a component of the Storage & Distribution skid, aimed at preserving the microbial limits specified for the product water.

Additionally, it plays a crucial role in breaking down ozone for systems using ozonation, further enhancing water quality. In select instances, UV technology is harnessed for Dechlorination purposes on the pre-treatment, offering a versatile approach to meeting various water treatment needs.

The advantages of UV treatment over alternatives

The adoption of UV treatment in pharmaceutical water systems presents a range of benefits that set it apart from alternative methods. UV technology is a tried-and-tested approach, providing peace of mind in terms of reliability and effectiveness.

 UV treatment leaves no trace of added substances

Unlike many disinfection methods that rely on chemicals, UV treatment leaves no trace of added substances, ensuring the water's purity remains uncompromised.

UV systems are known for their low maintenance requirements, offering a robust and controlled disinfection process. Importantly, UV treatment generates no wastewater during the process, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

Factors impacting UV disinfection effectiveness

While UV technology is highly effective in maintaining water purity, several factors can influence its performance. The intensity of the UV lamp is crucial; ensuring it operates at optimal levels is vital for consistent disinfection.

In pharmaceutical applications, water quality is typically high, and UV transmittance is rarely a concern due to the preceding pretreatment processes, including reverse osmosis (RO) and continuous electrodeionization (CEDI).

Challenges related to UV technology can arise in non-pharmaceutical applications where scaling may occur

The type of bacteria present can influence UV effectiveness, although in pharmaceutical water treatment, the water quality is usually exceptionally high, reducing bacterial loading.

Challenges related to UV technology can arise in non-pharmaceutical applications where scaling may occur, especially in scenarios with irregular flow patterns and where UV is installed on mains water. In such cases, the heating effect of medium-pressure lamps can lead to hardness precipitating out of the water.

Applications of UV Treatment in pharma water systems

UV treatment plays a pivotal role in maintaining water purity throughout various stages of pharmaceutical water systems. In the production of Purified Water, UV technology ensures that the water produced meets the stringent quality requirements for pharmaceutical applications.

In the distribution loop, UV treatment maintains consistently low bacterial levels, preventing microbial growth and maintaining water quality. 

Monitoring and validation of UV disinfection

Monitoring and validation are critical aspects of UV disinfection to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and uphold quality assurance.

Regularly monitoring UV intensity ensures the lamp operates at peak efficiency and prompts timely replacement when necessary, following the manufacturer's recommendations.

Monitoring and validation are critical aspects of UV disinfection

Annual calibration of monitoring instrumentation is essential to maintain accuracy and reliability in the disinfection process. Ensuring the documentation pack contains all necessary elements, including material certifications, weld logs, drawings, and more, is in line with guidelines set by authorities like USP, EP, and ISPE.

Supporting sustainability and environmental goals

UV disinfection aligns seamlessly with the pharmaceutical industry's sustainability and environmental objectives in several ways. A well-performing UV system can potentially extend the time between sanitization cycles, reducing energy consumption and downtime.

Opting for low-pressure UV systems over medium-pressure alternatives reduces energy usage, contributing to sustainability goals. Large medium-pressure UV systems with variable power options offer a more sustainable approach by adjusting energy consumption as needed.

The future of UV technology in pharma

The future of UV technology in the pharmaceutical industry holds promising developments. Enhanced remote monitoring capabilities will provide real-time insights into UV system performance, allowing for proactive maintenance.

Continued innovation may lead to low-pressure UV systems with multiple lamps, further optimizing energy efficiency. The industry is also likely to see advancements in UV lamp technology, with a focus on mercury-free alternatives for improved sustainability.

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