A new study warns about potential risks associated with the use of consumer-grade UV lights to prevent the spread of COVID-19, highlighting several case reports involving individuals who suffered serious eye injuries for the germicidal lamps.
In findings published late last month in the medical journal Ocular Immunology and Inflammation, researchers describe problems experienced by several patients treated at emergency departments for ocular injuries related to UV-emitting germicidal lamps, which are increasingly being used amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers with University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute report an increase in the number of patients being treated for photokeratitis, which is a condition that occurs when the cornea is overexposed to UV radiation.
The report describes seven patients who were evaluated at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute between April 1 and July 19, 2020, who were diagnosed with UV-associated photokeratitis after exposure to germicidal lamps for between 10 minutes to four hours.
Injuries included irritation, pain, blurred vision and sensitivity to light, resulting in the need for topical lubrication or antibiotics to prevent infection.
The researchers warn consumers that exposing the eyes to consumer-grade UV lamps can have permanently damaging effects on the cornea and cause painful damage to the ocular surface.
Further, the researchers indicate the wavelengths of consumer-grade UV lights, such as germicidal lights, can have a much more severe effect.
While germicidal lights use ultraviolet C (UVC) light to inactivate microbes such as bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses, the method has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a means of killing the virus.
Information collected on all patient-used germicidal UV lights contained manufacturer recommendations to avoid direct contact while the device is turned on.
The researchers indicate that the study was designed to raise awareness of the potentially long term damaging effects consumers may cause to their eyes by using UV lights, and does not address whether UV germicidal lamps are effective in destroying the new coronavirus.
Increased UV Light Injuries Reported Nationwide
Due to the lack of supply in hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have resorted to homemade remedies to combat the virus, which have resulted in thousands of calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers over the last eight months.
Michigan received more than 80 calls about accidental misuse of automotive products, according to reports. In Charlottesville, Virginia, consumers reportedly drank bleach or diluted bleach in an attempt to kill the COVID-19 virus. Other reports indicate Arizona has seen a 50% increase in accidental poisoning calls involving cleaning supplies, and similar increases have been reported in other states.
Experts warn to be careful when attempting to mix chemicals to make homemade cleaners or using other remedies to combat the virus, and to always consult with state and CDC guidelines for virus prevention protocols.