The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has issued a product warning to advise consumers of the dangers of portable devices that emit ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies and individuals are promoting UVR devices to treat or prevent the spread of coronavirus. These devices emit short-wave UVR known as UVC and have been marketed for use in personal or home sterilisation as a means of killing the virus responsible for COVID-19.

‘ARPANSA and our colleagues at the World Health Organization [WHO] are concerned about the dangers of home use of UVC lamps’, said Dr Rick Tinker, Director, Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA.

‘Using these small commercially-available lamps in the home is not recommended and can be very dangerous.’

Concerns include the variability of effectiveness of lamps and the potential to provide a false impression of safety if the intensity or duration of exposure is not sufficient to kill the virus. In addition to varying reliability, there are also serious health risks if skin or eyes are exposed to UVC light.

‘UVC exposure to the skin or eyes can cause both short term injury and long term health effects’, said Dr Tinker, ‘Possible health impacts include burns, eye injuries and an increased risk of skin cancer or cataracts’.

UVC lamps are not proven to effectively kill the virus responsible for COVID-19 on the body, personal living spaces or handheld objects such as mobile phones and shopping bags. They present serious health risks and are considered an unjustified radiation exposure.

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene, wash hands and surfaces thoroughly and comply with social-distancing measures. For further information on how to stop the spread of coronavirus, visit the Department of Health website.

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