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Be sure to read Part I and Part II of our FAQs series on UV disinfection lighting and coronavirus/covid-19! 

Also, read here for basic FAQs on UV lighting, like simple definitions of the terms. 

Is UV light bad for you? 

This is an important question. If not used or implemented properly, direct exposure to germicidal ultraviolet lighting can have damaging effects on both materials and people. Over exposure to UV-C lighting can harm humans in a variety of ways, such as eye and skin damage. It can also cause damage to materials, such as the erosion of rubber gaskets or plastics. It is because of these potential negative effects of UV-C disinfection lighting that it is vital that appropriate products are utilized in the various applications in which they can provide benefits. To learn more about these various applications in which UV light is applied, click here. 

One of the easiest ways to avoid any sort of skin or eye damage is to make sure that any UV-C light system in consideration includes some sort of reverse occupancy sensor that ensures the fixture will not operate if a person enters a space during a disinfection cycle. The ability of the UV lighting system to use disinfection cycles is also crucial. There are different disinfection cycle lengths for different facility types, spaces, and materials. When used properly, the UV-C system will provide enough germicidal ultraviolet light to ensure that the pathogens are killed, but not enough to cause damage to surfaces or materials.

This is a great guide from the EPA on safety and UV lamps. It specifically states the importance of following manufacturer instructions!

UV Lighting Warning Sign in Hospital Room During Disinfection

Does UV lighting cause cancer?

The majority of skin cancer, and the vast majority of UV exposure, is caused by the sun. Artificial sources of UV rays, like UV lighting, can also be carcinogenic. Fortunately, artificial forms of UV lighting can be avoided or used safely to mitigate risk. For instance, it’s well known that tanning beds are unsafe, but these can simply be avoided.

As far as UV disinfection lighting and cancer risk, as long as protective gear is used when interacting with the light and all directions are followed, risk can be mitigated, as mentioned.


Does UV lighting damage skin and other materials?

As mentioned above, UV rays, both artificial and naturally occurring, can harm skin. With proper safety measures, risk is mitigated.

We’ve already discussed that personal protective equipment, or PPE, is not meant to be used more than once. That said, in today’s coronavirus-stricken world, PPE must be reused. Many sources are reporting that disinfection using UV lighting is your best option and won’t damage the equipment as much as hard chemical cleaners.

UV rays do damage plastic; this is well established. This is another reason directions need to be followed when using UV lighting.


Has UV lighting been through clinical studies? Is it approved?

Yes, it’s an FDA regulated industry. Moreover, the CDC recommends UV disinfection as one of our best defenses for “cleaning” facemasks right now.


What happens if someone walks into the area being disinfected during the decontamination process?

It’s vital to follow instructions for safe use of UV lighting—here’s a great guide. If someone were to walk in, they could have damage to eyes or skin. It’s unlikely that any permanent damage would be done, but it’s certainly not recommended. Instead, try using controls and locks to ensure safety and clear signage to avoid someone entering when they’re not supposed to.


Can I look at UV disinfection lighting through a window?

Yes, nearly 100% of UV-C is blocked by regular window glass so you cannot be harmed in this way.


Do you need special training to use UV lighting?

Yes, you’ll need special equipment and training to use UV lighting professionally in public settings. Generally, the purchase of the special equipment will provide you with the instruction needed. There are some residential applications for UV lighting that don’t require training, but any large-scale commercial usage will require instruction to ensure proper and safe use.

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