UL, ALA, NEMA Collaborate to Offer Ultraviolet Light Safety Guidance

LDS UVC UL 400

August 6, 2020

With a shared commitment to the safety and performance of electrical lighting, UL, the American Lighting Association (ALA) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) have released a new position paper due to an increased demand for sanitizing and germicidal capabilities in the face of COVID-19. The position paper has two goals: to bring attention to ultraviolet light device safety risks; and to help manufacturers, retailers and consumers understand which devices are safe and under what conditions they can be operated safely.

The paper, “Ultraviolet-C (UVC) Germicidal Devices: What Consumers Need To Know, provides a deeper look at the UVC germicidal devices available to consumers and their potential to cause severe injuries to humans and pets, as well as damage to plants and materials.

“We are all extremely concerned about the impacts and elimination of COVID-19 and what can be done to mitigate the spread of the virus.  In this current global situation, the growing interest around sanitation and germicidal properties is putting UVC devices in greater focus than ever before,” said Todd Straka, global industry director of UL’s Lighting division. 

“There has been an alarming rise in the availability of consumer-facing ultraviolet germicidal devices that don’t effectively contain UVC light and carry very serious risks, including permanent eye, skin and lung damage. This is a major safety issue that urgently needs to be communicated to consumers and potential users of these devices. By teaming up with ALA and NEMA, who also share these concerns, we are aiming to educate consumers and manufacturers regarding the potential safety risk implications of using UVC light,” Straka said.

Ultraviolet (UV) naturally occurs in three types: UVA, UVB and UVC, all of which have certain benefits and pose certain hazards. While UVC is the type that has proven to have the most germicidal benefits, including killing bacteria and inactivating viruses, any uncontained UVC exposure that is strong enough to kill germs is a risk to people, pets and plants.

“Uncontained UVC germicidal products used in a healthcare setting do have benefits to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However, unlike those being marketed to consumers, they are used by trained professionals who have taken appropriate safety training and use the appropriate protective equipment to take precautions against UVC overexposure,” said Terry K. McGowan, director, Engineering and Technology, American Lighting Association.

“As the leading residential lighting industry trade association, it is our duty to promote the proper, safe application of lighting products, while also communicating to our members and the public lighting safety risks. By collaborating on the UVC position paper with safety expert UL and NEMA, ALA wants to help communicate to the lighting industry the importance of developing and marketing products that can be safely operated without risk to human health,” McGowan said.

“We know that UVC is a proven way to help eliminate dangerous bacteria and viruses in water, air and on surfaces. Nevertheless, in the midst of COVID-19, we are concerned about proliferation of UVC disinfecting devices being sold with uncertain safety features and incomplete operating instructions,” said Karen Willis, industry director, Lighting Systems, National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

“Establishing and maintaining the safety of UVC devices is a priority for NEMA and across the lighting industry in all sectors, including consumer, commercial and healthcare applications. We are proud to be a part of this important educational effort,” Willis said.

The “Ultraviolet-C (UVC) Germicidal Devices: What Consumers Need to Know position paper, a detailed chart of UVC products for consumer, commercial, healthcare and UVC germicidal device components and information about their path to certification can be found at UL.com/uvlighting.

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