Beware UVC Lamps as COVID-19 Disinfectant

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 disease, consumers’ interest in ultraviolet-C (UVC) lamps has increased for use in disinfecting surfaces in the home or similar spaces. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of skin and eye burns resulting from improper use or installation of UVC lamps.

Such lamps fall into four categories:

  • Low-pressure mercury
  • Excimer lamp or Far-UVC
  • Pulsed xenon
  • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)

The effectiveness of UVC lamps as a disinfectant for COVID-19 depends upon the wavelength, dose, and duration of radiation exposure. Precise data is still being collected, but it is inarguable that direct exposure of skin and eyes to UVC radiation from some UVC lamps may cause painful eye injury and burn-like skin reactions.

The FDA recommends never looking directly at a UVC lamp source, even briefly. Doing so can lead to redness, blurred vision, tearing, light sensitivity, or general pain of the eyes. If anyone experiences these symptoms associated with using a UVC device, they are encouraged to see their eye care specialist for treatment, and report it to the FDA.

For more details on the risks and efficacy of UVC as a COVID-19 disinfectant, see UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection, and Coronavirus.