Alarm over consumer UV-C systems for Covid-19

Alarm over consumer UV-C systems for Covid-19

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Two lighting industry associations have raised concerns about UV-C Covid-19 disinfecting systems aimed at consumers and small businesses

UVC light has long been used as a measure for sanitisation of air, surfaces and water and is known to kill bacteria and viruses when used correctly. During the coronavirus pandemic there has been an increasing interest in the topic, with UV-C LED suppliers maintaining the technology is safe.

The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) in the UK says it has become aware over recent months of a significant number of devices appearing on the market, many targeted at consumers and small businesses, which are potentially dangerous. UVC light can pose a hazard to human health if not used correctly and members of the public are advised not to purchase any UV-C products without seeking third party assurances that they are safe for use.

The LIA differentiates these from professional devices available from reputable manufacturers which are designed to be operated safely and effectively but these are generally for specialist applications by trained operators.

Dr Gareth John at the LIA has been working to understand the value as well as dangers of UV-C light in the fight against bacteria and viruses including membership of the International UV Association (IUVA). The organisation has tested a number of devices claiming to kill viruses and has reported the outcomes to the relevant market surveillance authorities where safety concerns have been identified. Public Health England has also tested a number of similar devices and have raised concerns over their safety and effectiveness.

Through membership of LightingEurope, the LIA has joined a Global Lighting Association task force to publish guidance on UV-C, its effectiveness, hazards and information on devices and applications. This is expected to be adopted by IEC.

Next: GLA concerns over UV-C

“Additional work is being carried out by the LIA in the IEC, national committees of BSI and LightingEurope and we continue to monitor work from other international standardisation bodies and trade associations. LIA also maintain a dialogue with Public Health England on the topic,” said the LIA.

The Global Lighting Association (GLA) has moved its guidance down from 200nm to 180nm to include mercury lamps as well as LEDs for disinfection systems.

For effective disinfection purposes, the UV-C energy of UV-C devices is much higher than normal sunlight. These high UV-C energies can be a hazard to exposed humans and materials if proper safety measures are not observed, says the GLA.

“In this context, and in the midst of a global COVID-19 epidemic, the GLA is concerned at the proliferation of UV-C disinfecting devices – particularly being sold on the internet – with dubious safety features and inadequate safety instructions,” it said.

It is calling for comprehensive technical safety standards for UV-C devices. Standards are expected to be developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and other standards development organisations (SDOs), but will take many months before they are published.

Useful references

The LIA recommends that anyone wishing to understand better the safe and effective utilisation and application of UV-C should consider the content of the resources listed below.

The LIA says it has invested in lab equipment in the UK to test for electrical and optical safety, wavelength and the exposure required to achieve published kill rates, and this can be used for testing systems.;

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