EDITORIAL - UV light warning

EDITORIAL - UV light warning

(The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2020 - 12:00am

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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