How to use UV germicidal lamps safely
Most ultraviolet germicidal lamps choose UV-C as the light source. Why? Because UV-C has a wavelength around 250nm, with the greatest germicidal effectiveness. It can effectively kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, averagely in 10 seconds at a distance of 6 inches.
UV-C germicidal lamps have a variety of applications where sterilization or disinfection is the primary concern, including air purification, food protection, and sterilization of medical instruments.
However, UV-C radiation is harmful to skin and eyes. Thus, it is of great importance that the UV Sterilization Lamp are properly designed, structured, and installed to prevent any exposure to humans and animals.
Potential risks from UV-C germicidal lamp
The risks of UV-C radiation cannot be felt directly. Its damage is accumulated by time. The user might not realize the danger until the symptoms show which usually occurs in 4 to 24 hours after exposure.
In general, UV-C radiation has 2 types of effects on the skin – chronic and acute. The acute effect is called erythema (similar to sunburn). And the chronic effects include accelerated skin aging and skin cancer.
Ultraviolet radiation does harm to the eyes. Acute overexposure can cause temporary inflammation of pain, mainly the cornea, known as photokeratitis. Long term exposure to UV-C light source can also increase the risk of certain types of cataracts.
The exposure limit for a germicidal lamp is 6 millijoules per square centimeter. Within this limit, detectable molecular damage could be fully repaired in 24 hours. If you are under continuous UV-C exposure for more than 8 hours, special care needs to be taken.
Safety controls when using UV germicidal lamps in labs
When you get the UV germicidal lamps, bulbs, it is important to consult the manufacturer’s manuals for information about the exposure level, frequency of radiation, and the operating instructions.
The UV-C germicidal light must be used in line with strict administrative rules to prevent overexposure. Common administrative controls include offering training and safe working instruction to users and ensuring users aware of the potential risks of UV ray, and limiting access.
Users should be trained on how to use UV germicidal lamps safely. There is safety-related information in the manufacturer’s manuals. For example, what eye or skin protection is needed and what is the ventilation requirement. The users much read and understand this information completely before using germicidal lamps. If there is any uncertainty or concern about the safe use of UV germicidal equipment, contact your manufacturer or supplier immediately.
Remember, never deviating from the instructions for safe operation.
In addition, the lab personnel should be educated with the following when working under UV light exposure:
1. Proper operating protocols of UV germicidal equipment;
2. Proper use of protective equipment such as UV shields, enclosures, and so on;
3. Symptoms of UV overexposure;
Limiting exposure to ultraviolet light
1. Never look at any UV source directly no matter how far you are away from it;
2. Keep exposure time to a minimum and keep as far away from the source;
3. Restrict access to that person who directly working with or around UV light.
4. Turn off the UV germicidal lights as soon as you don’t need them, and turn on it only when you need them;
Equipping labs with adequate personal protective equipment
Some tools like gloves, lab coat, and face shield can protect the skin and eyes from the damage of UV radiation.
1. Face shield – goggles might not be effective. Full-face shields that absorb UV radiation should be worn instead. You should be aware that severe skin burns can happen in a relatively short time.
2. Gloves – it is recommended to use nitrile, latex, or tightly woven fabric gloves. Why? The transmission of UV rays through these materials is lower than vinyl ones.
3. Lab coats - Personnel should wear a fabric lab coat that fastens securely at the wrists and up the neck so that no skin is exposed. Some common protective wear, such as arm shields, coveralls, and lab coats, is not appropriate as a shield from UV radiation, as it may allow significant leakage of UV through it.
How to safely clean up a broken UV germicidal lamp
1. If the UV germicidal bulbs are broken, the area where the breakage occurred should be ventilated immediately and adequately. Pay attention to the precautions and clean up broken glass with a mercury vacuum cleaner which can avoid generating mercury vapor. Do not use a standard or household vacuum cleaner. And collected materials should be kept in a closed container to prevent pollution.
2. After cleaning up the broken lights, you should take off protective clothing and wash hands thoroughly before eating or using toilet facilities.
3. For any doubt about the proper disposal of broken UV germicidal lights, contact your manufacturer or supplier for assistance.