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FDA Warns Against Using UV Wands for Disinfection and Here’s Why

Aug 17, 2022

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned consumers of the dangers of using certain ultraviolet (UV) wands. UV wands are handheld devices used to disinfect surfaces by projecting UV rays onto a surface. Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of UV wands and the best solution recommended by the FDA.

UV Radiation

Radiation is the emission of energy from any source that travels through space at the speed of light. The waves contain electric and magnetic energy that are associated with the frequency of the radiation. The electromagnetic spectrum measures the frequency and wavelength used to describe electromagnetic radiation and describes the activity level of photons and the size of the wavelength in each category.

UV radiation is a type of non-ionizing radiation with the highest energy. UV radiation can come from the sun or artificial sources and is measured on the electromagnetic spectrum. UV radiation falls between x-ray and visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum. It is used for many different things, including transmitting sound, microwaves, and x-rays. The most common types of UV radiation include UVA, UVB, and UVC. UV wands give off UVC radiation to disinfect surfaces.

UVC Rays

UVC is the highest energy portion of the UV radiation spectrum. UVC radiation from the sun is blocked by the ozone layer in the atmosphere, but humans can be exposed to UVC rays through artificial sources, like UV wands. It has one of the shortest wavelengths, which makes it one of the most dangerous and damaging types of UV radiation.

UVC uses a specific wavelength of UV light, between 100 and 280 nanometers, to neutralize microorganisms. When applied to a surface, UVC penetrates the bacteria and changes the structure of DNA and RNA inside the cell nucleus. It inactivates them by stopping the cell division function and prevents proliferation.

UV Wand Effectiveness

UV wands are only effective if the virus is directly exposed to the radiation. Therefore, soils like dust and bodily fluids can prevent the UV wand from inactivating the virus. Additionally, prolonged exposure to UV on a surface may be needed depending on the UV dosage. These limitations can lead to an increase in time spent disinfecting and an increase in health and safety risks by not killing the viruses completely on surfaces (without taking additional cleaning steps) and exposing the user to high levels of radiation.

UV Wand Dangers

Recently, FDA conducted a study by collecting and testing samples of UV wands from multiple manufacturers. The purpose of these tests was to identify safety risks of using UV wands for disinfection, including:

  • UVC exposure
  • Safety information
  • Disinfection claims
  • Protection

"Some UV wands marketed to 'disinfect in seconds' were releasing as much as 3,000 times more UVC radiation"

Some UV wands marketed to “disinfect in seconds” were releasing as much as 3,000 times more UVC radiation than the exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. As a result, the user or people nearby can experience 2 types of injuries after only a few seconds of exposure. A red rash, burn-like skin reaction called erythema can form and have a severity range of mild to life-threatening. The eyes can experience photokeratitis, a painful and temporary eye condition caused by exposure to UV rays that is like sunburn. It can feel like having sand in the eyes and last up to 2 days.

It was also discovered that not all UV wands are packaged with proper safety precautions and instructions that include eye and skin protection recommendations. Some do not have adequate safety features that reduce injury to the person using the UV wand or people nearby during application.

Alternate Disinfection Method

The FDA recommends not using UV wands and utilizing alternative disinfection methods, such as chemical cleaners to kill germs. Most chemical cleaners are able to disinfect just as well or better than UV wands without the risk of radiation exposure.

Betco® has disinfection solutions for any situation with concentrates, ready-to-use products, and wipes readily available:

  • The FastDraw dilution control systems in conjunction with concentrates drive down disinfection costs and increase safety.
  • The powerful, ready-to-use products save time and effort when it comes to disinfection.
  • All the benefits of a ready-to-use product are wrapped up in a fast, convenient, and sustainable wipe.

With close to 20 disinfectants available in a variety of formats, it can be overwhelming to understand which disinfectant will be the most effective. To help, the Disinfectant Selector Guide will assist with determining which disinfectant will work best for a facility or space. Click here to take the test.

For more information about Betco disinfectants, click here. To speak with a Betco representative, click here.