UV Wands Give Off Unsafe Levels of Radiation, FDA Warns

The agency urges consumers not to use UV wands due to the risk of radiation injuries to the eyes and skin.

Ultraviolet (UV) wands used for disinfecting surfaces emit too much radiation, and are not safe for consumer use, federal regulators warn.

On July 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety communication warning that UV wands give off unsafe levels of radiation, which could cause eye or skin injuries after only a few seconds of use. The agency issued a slew of Notice of Defect letters to manufacturers of the devices, warning them to take corrective action.

UV wands are handheld devices which emit UV-C radiation to disinfect surfaces and kill germs, and are sold at the consumer level. The FDA indicates they are often promoted as being able to disinfect in seconds, but notes they lack adequate safety information and do not provide any means to protect users from the UV emissions.

The FDA warning comes after the agency collected and tested samples of wands from multiple manufacturers.

“When a product is advertised to disinfect in seconds, it likely means that it gives off an unsafe level of UV-C radiation,” the agency warns. “The FDA testing determined that some UV wand products give off at a distance of about two inches, as much as 3,000 times more UV-C radiation than the exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.”

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The FDA warns those too close to the wands could experience skin injuries like erythema, or eye injuries like photokeratitis, or both. The agency indicates these products are not safe, and recommends that UV wands not be used.

The agency sent out defect notice letters to eight manufacturers of UV wands, alerting them to the problem with their products. The letters require the manufacturers to immediately respond to the agency and provide it with the number of units that have been sold, and where those products were sold. The agency also wants them to create corrective action plans, notify consumers of the defects and repair, replace or refund the cost of the affected products to customers.

The letters went out to the makers of Safe T Lite, Sharper Image UV Sanitizing Portable Wands, the Magic UV Light Sanitizer and others. Such letters are often prelude to a recall.

The FDA also listed recommendations for consumers; first and foremost calling for them not to use the UV Wands listed in the safety communication. The agency also warned consumers to be aware of the risks of eye and skin injuries, and that the wands come with no safety features to reduce the risk of injury.

In addition, the agency urged consumers to avoid any UV wands that lack safety instructions or information on the radiation emitted. If the wands are used, consumers should follow all safety instructions, including any calling for them to protect their eyes and skin from UV-C exposure.

The FDA recommends that, instead of using UV wands, consumers should consider alternative disinfection methods, like chemical cleaners.

Any consumer who suffers an injury or adverse event involving a UV wand should submit an Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form. And the agency is calling for consumers to help identify other potentially unsafe UV wands by filling out an Allegations of Regulatory Misconduct form.

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