Water disinfection systems treat water to inactivate, destroy, and/or remove pathogenic bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other parasites. Common methods of disinfection use chlorination and alternative disinfectants. Water disinfection systems can be used to decontaminate flexible fiberoptic endoscopes as well as commercial facilities. Ultraviolet (UV) disinfectors are a relatively inexpensive way to disinfect drinking water. These systems incorporate a UV disinfector into a distribution system that enhances the microbiological purity of the water. Water disinfection systems are also used to disinfect water in greenhouses, as well as kill airborne bacteria in air duct systems.
Water disinfection systems reduce the number of viable, potentially disease-causing microorganisms present in an environment. A disinfectant is a chemical or physical agent that is applied to inanimate objects to kill microbes. Heat disinfection is the most effective and reliable method for disinfecting industrial environments. Equipment used for heat disinfection includes dishwashing machines, bedpan/commode washer disinfectors, and washing machines for laundry. The use of chemical disinfectants in household environments may pose different levels of risk in terms of exposure. Thorough cleaning with detergent and hot water is sufficient for routine purposes, except for items contaminated with blood. Chlorine-based disinfectants are widely used for disinfecting inanimate surfaces using chlorine-releasing agents.
Water disinfection systems such as a washer disinfector are specifically designed to ensure instruments are clinically clean after processing. The initial flushing is carried out at a designated temperature of less than 35° C to prevent protein coagulation (proteins coagulate at 35° C, so an initial hand wash in hot water is not effective). Washer disinfectors are used in hospitals to decontaminate soiled items so that they can be safely reused in clinical practice. Sterilization destroys all infectious agents from an environment, including algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, virus dormant endospores, and poorly characterized agents such as viroids and agents that are associated with spongiform encephalopathies. A sterilizer (also called a sporicide) is an antimicrobial that destroys or eliminates all forms of bacteria, viruses, and fungi and their spores.