In our last story about UV lights, we looked into the science of how UV lighting can be used to disinfect your home, but today, we look at the safety of using UV lighting in your home and for that, we consult the Center for Disease Control.
When it comes to deploying UV lamps in your home, the CDC says you have calculate the risks versus the reward.
“Consider both the risks of UVC lamps to people and objects and the risk of incomplete inactivation of virus,” the CDC says on the subject.
UVC lamps used for disinfection purposes may pose potential health and safety risks depending on the UVC wavelength, dose, and duration of radiation exposure. The risk may increase if the unit is not installed properly or used by untrained individuals, the CDC says.
Here are four common concerns the CDC states for the use of UV lamps in your home.
- Direct exposure of skin and eyes to UVC radiation from some UVC lamps may cause painful eye injury and burn-like skin reactions. Never look directly at a UVC lamp source, even briefly. If you have experienced an injury associated with using a UVC lamp, we encourage you to report it to the FDA.
- Some UVC lamps generate ozone. Ozone inhalation can be irritating to the airway.
- UVC can degrade certain materials, such as plastic, polymers, and dyed textile.
- Some UVC lamps contain mercury. Because mercury is toxic even in small amounts, extreme caution is needed in cleaning a lamp that has broken and in disposing of the lamp.
When buying a lamp, the CDC says to do your homework. Not all lamps are built equally.
“Not all UVC lamps are the same. Lamps may emit very specific UVC wavelengths (like 254 nm or 222 nm), or they may emit a broad range of UV wavelengths. Some lamps also emit visible and infrared radiation. The wavelengths emitted by the lamp may affect the lamp’s effectiveness at inactivating a virus and may impact the health and safety risks associated with the lamp. Some lamps emit multiple types of wavelengths. Testing of the lamp can determine whether, and how much, other wavelengths the lamp puts out,” the CDC said. “There is some evidence that excimer lamps, with peak wavelength of 222-nm may cause less damage to the skin, eyes, and DNA than the 254 nm wavelength, but long-term safety data is lacking. For more information see “Q: Where can I read more about UV radiation and disinfection?”
There are four different types of UVC lamps.
Low-pressure mercury lamp: Historically, the most common type of lamp used to produce UVC radiation was the low-pressure mercury lamp, which has its main (>90%) emission at 254 nm. Other wavelengths are also produced by this type of lamp. There are other lamps available that emit a broad range of UV wavelengths, but also emit visible and infrared radiation.
Excimer lamp or Far-UVC lamp: Type of lamp, called an “excimer lamp”, with a peak emission of around 222 nm.
Pulsed xenon lamps: These lamps, which emit a short pulse of broad spectrum (including UV, visible and infrared) light have been filtered to emit mainly UVC radiation and are sometimes employed in hospital settings to treat environmental surfaces in operating rooms or other spaces. These are normally employed when no humans are occupying the space.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs): Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that produce UV radiation are also becoming more commonly available. Typically, LEDs emit a very narrow wavelength band of radiation. Currently available UV LEDs have peak wavelengths at 214 nm, 265 nm, and 273 nm, among others. One advantage of LEDs over low-pressure mercury lamps is that they contain no mercury. However, the small surface area and higher directionality of LEDs may make them less effective for germicidal applications.