Lighting Industry Leaders Team Up To Offer UVC Light Safety Guidance

While ultraviolet-C can kill bacteria and inactive viruses, any uncontained UVC exposure strong enough to kill germs is a risk to people, pets, and plants.

Due to an increased demand for sanitizing and germicidal capabilities in the face of COVID-19, UL, the American Lighting Association (ALA), and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) have released a new position paper, “Ultraviolet-C (UVC) Germicidal Devices: What Consumers Need To Know.”

The paper has two goals: to bring attention to ultraviolet light device safety risks; and to help manufacturers, retailers, and consumers understand which devices are safe and under what conditions they can be operated safely. It provides a deeper look at the UVC germicidal devices available to consumers and their potential to cause severe injuries to humans and pets, as well as damage to plants and materials.

UVC light disinfection
(Photo: UL)

“We are all extremely concerned about the impacts and elimination of COVID-19 and what can be done to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Todd Straka, global industry director of UL’s Lighting division.In this current global situation, the growing interest around sanitation and germicidal properties is putting UVC devices in greater focus than ever before.

“There has been an alarming rise in the availability of consumer-facing ultraviolet germicidal devices that don’t effectively contain UVC light and carry very serious risks, including permanent eye, skin and lung damage,” Straka continued. “This is a major safety issue that urgently needs to be communicated to consumers and potential users of these devices. By teaming up with ALA and NEMA, who also share these concerns, we are aiming to educate consumers and manufacturers regarding the potential safety risk implications of using UVC light.”

Ultraviolet (UV) naturally occurs in three types: UVA, UVB, and UVC, all of which have certain benefits and pose certain hazards. While UVC is the type that has proven to have the most germicidal benefits, including killing bacteria and inactivating viruses, any uncontained UVC exposure that is strong enough to kill germs is a risk to people, pets and plants.

“Uncontained UVC germicidal products used in a healthcare setting do have benefits to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Terry K. McGowan, director, Engineering and Technology, ALA. “However, unlike those being marketed to consumers, they are used by trained professionals who have taken appropriate safety training and use the appropriate protective equipment to take precautions against UVC overexposure.

“As the leading residential lighting industry trade association, it is our duty to promote the proper, safe application of lighting products, while also communicating to our members and the public lighting safety risks,” McGowan continued. “By collaborating on the UVC position paper with safety expert UL and NEMA, ALA wants to help communicate to the lighting industry the importance of developing and marketing products that can be safely operated without risk to human health.”

“We know that UVC is a proven way to help eliminate dangerous bacteria and viruses in water, air, and on surfaces,” said Karen Willis, industry director, Lighting Systems, NEMA. “Nevertheless, in the midst of COVID-19, we are concerned about proliferation of UVC disinfecting devices being sold with uncertain safety features and incomplete operating instructions.

“Establishing and maintaining the safety of UVC devices is a priority for NEMA and across the lighting industry in all sectors, including consumer, commercial and healthcare applications,” she added. “We are proud to be a part of this important educational effort.”

The position paper, a detailed chart of UVC products for consumer, commercial, healthcare and UVC germicidal device components, and information about their path to certification can be found here.

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