Electrical Business

COVID-19 Updates Features Safety Safety News

Consumer-facing UV-C germicidal devices can pose “a major safety issue”

August 5, 2020 | By Anthony Capkun

August 5, 2020 – “There has been an alarming rise in the availability of consumer-facing ultraviolet germicidal devices that don’t effectively contain UV-C light and carry very serious risks, including permanent eye, skin and lung damage,” warns Todd Straka of UL’s Lighting division.

Ultraviolet (UV) naturally occurs in three types (UV-A, -B and -C), explains UL, all of which pose certain benefits/hazards. UV-C has proved to have the greatest germicidal benefits—including killing bacteria and inactivating viruses—but any uncontained UV-C exposure that is strong enough to kill germs is a risk to people, pets and plants.

“This is a major safety issue that urgently needs to be communicated to consumers and potential users of these devices,” Straka added.

With that mission in mind, UL teamed up with the American Lighting Association (ALA) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to release “Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) germicidal devices: what consumers need to know”—a position paper that looks at the UV-C devices available to consumers, and their potential to cause severe injuries to humans and pets, as well as damage to plants and materials.


The position paper notes “[…] the online retail market is growing rapidly with hand-held and portable consumer-oriented UV-C germicidal devices, many of which do not employ proper containment or other equivalent means of protection”.

“Uncontained UV-C 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, they are used by trained professionals who have taken appropriate safety training and use the appropriate protective equipment to take precautions against UV-C overexposure,” said Terry K. McGowan with ALA.

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

On its website, ALA notes: “UV-C germicidal products can be tested and certified for fire and electrical safety using existing UL and CSA standards; however, there is no product certification and testing process for germicidal effectiveness or human safety from germicidal UV exposure”.

In fact, UL is unwilling to certify home-use portable sterilizers/wands for safety due to high risk.

To read the paper “Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) germicidal devices: what consumers need to know” and access additional information—such as appropriate UV-C germicidal solutions—visit UL.com/uvlighting.

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