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Are UV Air Purifiers Safe Or Dangerous?

There are many safety concerns on the UV air purifier that we need to address right away. Instead of sanitizing the air, improper use of ultraviolet light can be dangerous and poses irreversible damage to our health. To prevent that from happening, here's what you need to know about a UVC air purifier, the technology behind it, the germ-killing effectiveness, and how to use it safely.
Short answer
UV air purifiers are safe.

 

Are UV Air Purifiers Safe?

Most UV air purifiers are safe to use on a daily basis with no chemicals byproducts and insignificant levels of ozone emission under the 0.050 ppm limit certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). However, Ozone (O3) can still be dangerous as it is a highly reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms. Created during the UV irradiation, exposure even to a small amount of ozone can lead to chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and throat irritation. In the long run, it can cause irreversible damage to our respiratory systems like pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma attack, and lung scarring with reduced capacity. Children, elderly, and asthmatic people will be more susceptible to ozone so use cautiously.

The Hidden Danger With UV Purifiers

Besides the ozone concern, improper handling of UV air purifiers can do more harm than good. Direct exposure to ultraviolet light can lead to skin burning, eye damage/ photokeratitis, premature aging, and skin cancer. Here are few easy tips on how to use a UV sanitizing device safely:

  • Never sterilize your hands or any part of the skin with UV light according to World Health Organization (WHO) guideline.
  • Avoid unreliable, poorly made UV air purifiers that have the tendency of leaking harmful UV during irradiation.
  • Do not let children or pets go near a UV air purifier.
  • Never stare directly at ultraviolet light. Never point the UV light at other people as well.
  • Avoid purchasing aftermarket UV lightbulbs or lamps that may not follow the FDA Ultraviolet Index (UVI) safety ratings.
  • CDC recommends installing UV disinfection in ductwork or at the ceiling to complement the existing air filter rather than replacing it.
  • For commercial use, make sure you are properly equipped or suited to operate special UV devices.

What Is UV light?

Ultraviolet light is a form of electromagnetic radiation invisible to the eye. Derived mainly from the sun rays, there are three types of UV light (UVA, UVB, UVC) that vary in frequencies and wavelengths. UV-A has the longest wavelength between 315 to 400 nm, follow by UV-B with a wavelength between 280 to 315 nm. UV-C has the shortest wavelength between 100–280 nm with the fastest vibration and energy level. You will find UV technology used in commercial applications such as hospitals, healthcare centers, beauty salons, meat processing plants, factories, and laboratories. Most sterilizing devices including air purifiers use the broad-spectrum UV-C light because it is the most effective in disinfecting biological pollutants by destroying their DNA. The artificial germicidal light will also genetically damage COVID-19 RNA render it harmless.

The Effectiveness Debate

Another setback with UV technology is the efficiency. While there is no doubt UV air purifiers can kill and inactivate germs, bacteria, viruses from multiplying, it is unlikely the microbes will remain exposed in the internal UV chamber for minutes to an hour. The pathogens will have to be close proximity to the UV light bulb in order to be fully sanitized. Some microorganisms strain like mold is highly resistant to UV radiation that may even take a longer time to kill off. There is also the ultraviolet light intensity, cooling effect of airflow, the size, and material of the lightbulb that can affect the UV irradiation performance.

The lack of standardized UV measurement against airborne pollutants is another common issue. There are manufacturers that sell inferior products yet make up fake claims on the UV effectiveness just to trick people into buying one. You should only purchase a UV air purifier from a reputable manufacturer approved by CARB and AHAM.

The Safer Option: UV + HEPA

Rather than entrusting solely on UVC light, the better and safer option is to combined conventional HEPA filtration with UV technology. A HEPA air purifier can quickly capture 99.97% of airborne pollutants as small as 0.3 microns in diameter. The activated carbon filter will focus on absorbing smoke particles, chemicals, and fumes. The UV light will supplement the filtration by destroying 99.9% of trapped allergens so there is no chance of the microbes multiplying and reintroduce back to the air. This combination can help slow down the spread of COVID-19 viruses as recommended by CDC. A life-saving device during these unprecedented times.There are many factors to consider when searching for a UV air purifier that is genuine, safe, and more importantly effective. So instead of manually research what's available in the market, click here for the best air purifier with UV light designed for home use.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.