More research urgently needed on ultraviolet radiation ‘UV-C disinfection lights’

by | May 13, 2020

Interest in the use of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission is growing rapidly with each day of this pandemic. Because of this CIE has published a Position Statement (PS) following on from the two CIE publications related to UV-C applications that were recently made freely available.

You should be aware that:

  • UV-C is extremely useful in disinfection of air and surfaces or sterilization of water. However, CIE and WHO warn against the use of UV disinfection lamps to disinfect hands or any other area of skin (WHO, 2020).
  • UV-C can be very hazardous to humans and animals and should only be used in carefully controlled circumstances using well-designed products, ensuring that the limits of exposure as specified in ICNIRP (2004) and IEC/CIE (2006) are not exceeded. However, the risk of skin cancer from devices that emit only UV-C is considered negligible.
  • UV-C can cause photodegradation of materials and this should be considered where susceptible materials, such as plastics are in the exposed environment. 
  • More research is urgently needed on the safety aspects of novel UV-C sources, especially with respect to safety thresholds to avoid photokeratitis (”sunburn” of the cornea). 
  • For proper UVR assessment and risk management, appropriate UVR measurements are essential.
  • UV-C products aimed at general consumers may not be safe to use or may not be effective for disinfection.

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