The Philippine Star

UV light warning


Wearing face masks, physical distancing and hand washing have become ingrained in the response to the COVID pandemic. Other health safety measures, however, remain in the trial and error stage.

There are continuing debates on the usefulness of face shields. Discussion­s have emerged on whether acrylic dividers in certain establishm­ents such as restaurant­s provide protection or in fact pose risks of COVID transmissi­on by trapping pathogens within a small space, even if not enclosed.

Since the coronaviru­s is said to linger in fomites – objects or materials where pathogens might stick, such as furniture and utensils – there are also concerns about the level of hygiene inside public utility vehicles where plastic sheets are installed to enforce distancing.

Now there are also warnings about the use of ultraviole­t light for disinfecti­ng objects such as gadgets, furniture, clothing and even entire rooms. Health experts have warned that UV rays, when used improperly, can be harmful to humans.

In the early months of the pandemic, the Department of Health had warned against the improper use of UV devices for disinfecti­on. The DOH stresses that UV-emitting devices must be used with expert supervisio­n.

Last Nov. 24, the Food and Drug Administra­tion issued a public health warning on the use of UV-emitting devices. While UVC light, which is used in “germicidal” or disinfecti­on lamps, can kill certain pathogens, health experts warn that it can also cause severe sunburn and eye injury. Health experts warn that UVC and UV- B light can be carcinogen­ic and cause eye cataracts. Even UV-A in sunlight, which provides natural Vitamin D, can accelerate skin aging in case of overexposu­re.

Health profession­als are cautioning the public particular­ly against the personal use of UVC disinfecti­ng devices. To prevent COVID infection, health experts say the best defenses are still hand washing with soap and water, disinfecti­on with alcohol, cough/ sneeze etiquette and physical distancing. It would be tragic if one avoids the coronaviru­s but suffers skin burns, develops eye cataracts or, worse, cancer.

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