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Answered 2008-05-21 12:09:59

Germicidal ultraviolet (UVC) light kills cells by damaging their DNA. The light initiates a reaction between two molecules of thymine, one of the bases that make up DNA. UV light at this wavelength (shortwave UV or UVC) causes adjacent thymine molecules on DNA to dimerize. The resulting thymine dimer is very stable. If enough of these defects accumulate on a microorganism's DNA its replication is inhibited, thereby rendering it harmless.

The longer the exposure to UVC light, the more thymine dimers are formed in the DNA. If cellular processes are disrupted because of DNA damage, the cell cannot carry out its normal functions. If the damage is extensive and widespread, the cell will die.

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