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Advancing the sciences, engineering & applications of ultraviolet technologies to enhance the quality of human life & to protect the environment.



Contact: Gary Cohen, 240-497-1242, gcohen@iuva.org

Chevy Chase, MD (April 24, 2020) Recent reports suggest that ultraviolet (UV) light can be used on the human body to disinfect against the coronavirus. The International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA) and RadTech North America are educational and advocacy organizations consisting of UV equipment vendors, scientists, engineers, consultants, and members of the medical profession. We would like to inform the public that there are no protocols to advise or to permit the safe use of UV light directly on the human body at the wavelengths and exposures proven to efficiently kill viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. UV light under the conditions known to kill such viruses are also known to cause severe skin burns, skin cancer, and eye damage. We strongly recommend that anyone using UV light to disinfect medical equipment, surfaces, or air in the context of COVID-19, applications that are supported by sound scientific evidence, follow all recommended health and safety precautions and to avoid direct exposure of the body to the UV light.

Additional Information on UV Technology for Disinfection

The ultraviolet spectrum is a band of electromagnetic radiation at higher energies than visible light, split into four major categories: UV-A (400 – 315 nm), UV-B (315 – 280 nm), UV-C (280 – 200 nm), and vacuum-UV (VUV, 100 – 200 nm). UV-A and UV-B are present in sunlight at the earth’s surface; these parts of the ultraviolet spectrum are common causes of sunburn and, with longer-term exposure, melanoma. The risks of human exposure to UV-A and UV-B are well known. Solar UV may be used for disinfection purposes; exposures in the order of several hours to days might be effective at treating surfaces and water. Artificial sources of UV-A and UV-B are not commonly used for disinfection.

UV-C has been used for disinfection for over a century, with applications in water treatment, air systems, and surfaces. The use of UV-C as a disinfectant is supported by decades of scientific research. UV-C radiation is absorbed by DNA and RNA (the genetic code for all lifeforms), changing its structure. This damage inhibits the ability of the affected cells to reproduce, meaning that they cannot infect and are no longer dangerous. Whereas the UV exposure required to inactivate different microorganisms varies, though there are no known microorganisms that are immune to this treatment and it is regularly used against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

In the same way that UV-C can inactivate bacteria and viruses, it can be damaging to human cells too, since our cells also contain DNA. This exposure can cause skin irritation, damage to the cornea, and cell mutations leading to cancer. Exposure to UV-C radiation is regulated globally, with a common agreement on the risk to human health and safe exposure levels. These regulations and standards set limits on allowable exposure, though in all cases it is recommended to avoid UV exposure where possible.

In summary:

  • UV-C irradiation of the skin, eyes, or any body part should be avoided wherever possible.
  • Always wear appropriate PPE when handling un-shielded UV-C radiation sources (e.g. long-sleeved clothing, gloves, and a UV-opaque face shield).
  • Always use UV-C devices in accordance with the manufacturer’s operating instructions to ensure safe operation, and within appropriate enclosures where light leakage has been controlled, and where the risks have been properly managed.
MENU Fact Sheet on UV Disinfection for COVID-19 IUVA COVID-19 FAQ Advice for the selection and operation of equipment for the UV disinfection of air and surfaces Discouraging the Use of UV Light on the Human Body UV Disinfection Technologies & HAI Webinar WHITE PAPERS Far UV-C Radiation: Current State-of Knowledge :: New Updated May 2021 Far UV-C in the 200 – 225 nm range, and its potential for disinfection applications :: July 2020 UV 101: Overview of Ultraviolet Disinfection UV 101: Desinfección Ultravioleta, una perspectiva general SARS-CoV-2 UV Dose-Response Behavior PDF DOWNLOADS Fact Sheet with References 情况介绍,中文 Hoja de datos, idioma español ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Far UV-C Radiation: Current State-of Knowledge - Webinar Video Far UV-C Radiation: Current State-of Knowledge - Webinar Slides Cohen to Ashar; an email dated Sept. 23rd, Subject:” Questions on FDA’s EUA Requirements for N95 Mask Decontamination with UV” Cowan, et al; “FDA N95 Mask Emergency Use Authorization Requirements Questions for the FDA on the Requirements for UV Testing,” September 2020. Enhancing The New Normalcy With Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection (Part One Video) Enhancing The New Normalcy With Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection (Part Two Video) Enhancing The New Normalcy With Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection (Presentations) EPA Regulations About UV Lights that Claim to Kill or Be Effective Against Viruses and Bacteria Aircraft Hygiene in the Covid and Post Covid Eras: Demands, Challenges, and Opportunities Ultraviolet Disinfection Technologies & Healthcare Associated Infections: Defining Standards and Metrology Needs: Workshop Follow Up Questions on the U.S. Regulatory Coverage of UV Devices in a Hospital Expert Perspectives on UV as a Tool for N95 Decontamination The IUVA’s COVID-19 Response
Presentations, posters,and other information from the NIST/IUVA Supporting Global Action to Reduce the Transmission Of COVID-19 (CIE) FREE Update to CDC guidance on "Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators" which highlights UV as a strong contender for disinfecting N95s. Disinfection of N95 Respirators: UV Light May Be Considered For Limited Reuse Situations IES Committee Report: Germicidal Ultraviolet (GUV) – Frequently Asked Questions
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