UV lights are commonly used in various industries, including healthcare, air purification, and water treatment. However, many people wonder whether using these lights is safe or not. In this article, we will investigate the potential dangers of UV lights and give you the facts to make an informed decision.
What Are UV Lights?
UV stands for ultraviolet light, a non-visible form of light that is produced by the Sun. Three types of UV light exist based on their wavelength – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA and UVB lights make up around 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, and are responsible for tanning, sunburns and skin cancer. UVC light, on the other hand, is mostly absorbed in the Earth’s atmosphere and is harmful to organisms when exposed.
How Do UV Lights Work?
The basic principle of UV light technology is to destroy harmful microorganism’s DNA or RNA, which makes them unable to reproduce or spread. UV lights are used in air purifiers, water treatment plants, and medical equipment for sterilization purposes. UV lights work by emitting rays that kill viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens present in the air or water.
Are UV Lights Harmful To Humans?
UVA and UVB lights can cause skin damage in humans, leading to early aging and cancer. Prolonged exposure to UVC light can cause skin reddening, skin cell damage, and vision problems. However, UVC light is not present in sunlight, so you do not have to worry about it if you are outside during the day. As UVC light is harmful to humans, it is used to sterilize equipment or surfaces when no one is present.
Pros and Cons of UV Lights
Pros of UV Lights:
- Efficient: UV lights remove viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens without the use of chemicals or other toxic substances.
- Cost-Effective: UV light technology is relatively cheap compared to other disinfection techniques
- No Harmful Byproducts: UV light technology does not produce harmful byproducts and is therefore environmentally friendly.
- Easy to Maintain: UV lights do not require expensive or specialized maintenance.
Cons of UV Lights:
- Ineffectiveness Against Hardened Organisms: UV light technology is not effective against organisms that have hardened surfaces or are present in deep crevices.
- Ineffectiveness Against Chlorine-Resistant Organisms: UV light technology does not work against organisms that are resistant to chlorine.
- Exposure To UV Light: Prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB lights can cause skin cancer, aging, and vision problems in humans.
Types Of UV Lights Used In Industries
The two most commonly used types of UV lights in industries are Low-Pressure Mercury Vapor lamps and High-Pressure Mercury Vapor lamps.
Low-Pressure Mercury Vapor Lamps:
Low-pressure mercury lamps are also known as germicidal lamps as they emit short-wavelength UV light that kills viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. These lamps are commonly used in air purifiers and water treatment plants. Low-pressure lamps have a lifespan of approximately 9,000 hours.
High-Pressure Mercury Vapor Lamps:
High-pressure mercury vapor lamps emit UV light of longer wavelength and are used in tanning beds, phototherapy, and printing machines. The lamps contain both short and long-wavelength UV light, which can cause sunburns, skin damage, and cancer. High-pressure mercury vapor lamps have a lifespan of approximately 800 to 3,000 hours, depending on the application.
Are UV Lights Effective Against COVID-19?
The World Health Organization and other health authorities have recommended the use of UV lights to disinfect surfaces, but their effectiveness against COVID-19 is still under study. While some studies suggest that UV light can kill the novel coronavirus, they are tested in controlled lab environments that differ from public settings, making it tricky to implement them in the real world. Therefore, it would help if you did not rely solely on UV light technology to protect against COVID-19.
How To Protect Yourself From Harmful Effects of UV Light
You can take several steps to protect yourself from the harmful effects of UV light:
- Wear Protective Clothing: Wear protective clothing that covers your skin when outside in sunlight.
- Use Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, even during cloudy weather.
- Avoid Tanning Beds: Avoid tanning beds that use high-pressure mercury vapor lamps, which emit UVA and UVB light and can damage your skin.
- Use UV Protective Glasses: UV protection glasses block UV light from entering your eyes, preventing eye damage and vision problems.
- Use Protective Gear Around UV Lights: Use protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, when handling UV lights or in areas where UV radiation is present.
UV lights are a useful tool in many industries, and their effectiveness in sterilization has made them popular for disinfection purposes. However, prolonged exposure to UVA, UVB, and UVC lights can be harmful to humans, leading to skin damage, aging, and vision problems. Therefore, handle UV lights with care and protect yourself from harmful effects by following the necessary precautions.
- Q1. What does UV light do to bacteria?
A. UV light destroys bacteria and other microorganisms by damaging their DNA or RNA, making them unable to reproduce or spread.
- Q2. Is UV light harmful to humans?
A. Prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB lights can cause skin cancer, premature aging, and vision problems in humans. UVC light is harmful to humans but does not exist in sunlight.
- Q3. How long does it take for UV light to kill bacteria?
A. The time it takes for UV light to kill bacteria depends on the intensity of the light and the organism’s thickness. Most bacteria can be killed within 10 seconds to 30 minutes of exposure to UV light.