Amid the pandemic, some people are buying so-called germicidal ultraviolet lamps to protect against the new coronavirus. Demand for ultra violet (UV) wands has grown rapidly, promoted with government approval as corona virus killers, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released safety warnings for consumers following reports of eye injuries, skin burns and other safety concerns from UV lamps and wands.
UV light has been used to stop pathogens for decades, but it takes the right kind of UV light, UVC light waves specifically, in the right amount. Many at home UV cleaning devices that claim to be germicidal are actually the wrong wavelength. UVC light is potentially more dangerous than UVA or UVB. This form of UV has the highest frequency, which also makes it the most high-energy type of UV light.
Doctors are reporting on several patients who used such devices to eliminate the virus from homes and offices, developed a painful condition called photokeratitis. Photokeratitis occurs when the cornea is overexposed to UV radiation from the sun or other sources. It is like having a sunburned eye. This condition affects the thin surface layer of the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) and the conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. The longer you are exposed to UV rays, the more severe your symptoms will be.
When using UV germicidal lamps, you need to follow manufacturer recommendations to prevent damage to the eyes. Many users were not aware of the manufacturer’s recommendations, and many were unknowingly exposed at work. The best way to keep viruses out of the home is still using the recommendations of the CDC:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, don’t touch your face, eyes, nose and mouth. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used if soap and water is unavailable.
Disinfect surfaces with:
- Bleach solutions of 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of 5.25–8.25% bleach per gallon of room temperature water will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours.
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.