Is UV-C Safe? Uncovering the Risks of UV-C Lamps

More and more studies are proving that UV-C can effectively kill germs. Institutions such as hospitals are even using UV-C lights to reduce the transmission of superbugs.

However, there are important considerations to keep in mind when using UV-C lights to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you.

How does UV-C inactivate microorganisms?

Germicidal UV (UVGI) is absorbed by the DNA and RNA of microorganisms, which changes their structure. This change also destroys the ability of the affected pathogens to reproduce, so they can no longer infect or be harmful. This process is known as “photodimerization.” The most common lamp used to produce UVGI radiation is the low-pressure mercury vapor lamp at 253.7 nm. This is near the peak UVGI wavelength of 265 nm to inactivate microorganisms.

What are the Risks of UV-C Lamps?

Some UV-C lamps cause chemical reactions that produce ozone. Airbotx machines break down most ozone before leaving the chamber. However, a small amount will still get out. Following the Operational and Safety Guidelines is important to ensure safe working conditions.

Here are a few important things to know about the mechanisms of UV-C lamps: 

Ozone Exposure: Ozone is a reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms. High ozone concentrations have been found to contribute to respiratory tract irritation in people, animals, and plants.

Ozone is produced by some UV-C lamps due to the destabilizing effect the lamps have on molecules in the air. UV-C lamps in the Airbotx 390X produce small amounts of ozone, while UV-C lamps in the Airbotx 290X produce no ozone.

Radicals: Some UV-C lamps create radicals due to chemical reactions inside and outside the chambers. For example, hydroxyl radicals are formed by Airbotx machines that use vacuum UV (VUV). One way hydroxyl radicals are created is when oxygen molecules (O2) split into two oxygen atoms (O) and react with moisture in the ambient air (H2O) to form two hydroxyl radicals (O+H2O→OH+OH).

These radicals are highly reactive and short-lived. They immediately react with other molecules and initiate a chemical reaction chain that creates other species of radicals. These oxidants can travel through the air to break apart VOCs and odors outside the Airbotx machines.

Mercury: UV-C lamps rely on very small amounts of mercury to make UV-C light. Nevertheless, even small amounts of mercury are toxic to living things, so it is essential to dispose of UV-C lamps properly to reduce direct exposure.

Safety Tips For Using UV-C Lamps

  • Always consult the safety manual.
  • Ensure proper ventilation: Use your UV-C lamp in a well-ventilated area.
  • No direct skin or eye contact: Never look directly at or touch a UV-C lamp when it is on, even for a short period of time.
  • Wear UV protective gear: If you are in direct contact with your UV-C lamp, wear the proper personal protective equipment to protect yourself from UV-C exposure.
  • Properly dispose of UV-C lamps: Consult with local regulators or recycling centers on the best way to dispose of your UV-C lamps. If a lamp breaks while operating or handling, use proper care.

Final Thoughts

UV-C is a powerful disinfection tool that continues to show a lot of promise for enhancing indoor air quality. However, it is essential to always follow the safety manuals and ensure proper disposal of your lamps.

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