Paper Provides Ultraviolet Light Safety Guidance

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has partnered with the American Lighting Association and UL to release a position paper on the safe use of ultraviolet light for sanitizing and germicidal capabilities in the face of COVID-19. The position paper has two goals; to bring attention to ultraviolet light device safety risks and to help manufacturers, retailers, and consumers understand which devices are built to be safe and under what conditions they can be operated safely.

Ultraviolet-C (UVC) Germicidal Devices: What Consumers Need to Know provides a look at the UVC germicidal devices available to consumers and their potential to cause injuries to humans and pets, as well as damage to plants and materials.

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

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

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

“There has been an alarming rise in the availability of consumer-facing ultraviolet germicidal devices that do not effectively contain UVC light and carry very serious risks, including permanent eye, skin, and lung damage. 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 seek to educate consumers and manufacturers regarding the potential safety risk implications of using UVC light,” Straka states.

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. However, unlike those being marketed to consumers, those used in such settings are in the hands of trained professionals who have taken appropriate safety training and use the appropriate protective equipment to take precautions against UVC overexposure,” says Terry K. McGowan, director, engineering and technology, American Lighting Association.

“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. 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,” McGowan says.

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