Most of us already know that ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer and other problems. But that’s not all there is to worry about. “Most people are not aware of the damage that UVC radiation can do to their eyes,” says Dr. Nikki Angbue Te, an ophthalmologist who specializes in laser, cataract, and vitreoretinal surgery.
Take for example the case of Kapuso star Derek Ramsay, who was rushed to the emergency room after he looked straight into the UV light he was fixing. Ramsay said he experienced side effects, like eye pain and difficulty opening his eyes.
Prolonged exposure of UVC radiation, Te says, can burn the surface of the eye, causing a temporary and painful condition known as photokeratitis. Over time, unprotected exposure can contribute to cataracts, as well as cancer of the eyelids and the skin around the eyes.
“Never look directly at a UVC lamp source, even briefly,” she says.
Worried? Here’s what you can do: When doing room UVC disinfection, says ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Lagamayo from the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, one should not stay in the same room until the disinfection is done.
“This will prevent exposure because some UVC lamps produce ozone which can also irritate the airways and lungs,” he says.
For parcel disinfection, Lagamayo says it should be done in an enclosed container with no visible light passing through it.
The Department of Health earlier reminded the public to take caution while using UV light for disinfection purposes.
“It has been used in the hospital even before SARS-CoV-2. It’s done in a proper manner and they know how to use it with the proper doses,” said health undersecretary Maria Vergeire. “If used, there should be guidance.”
She recommended the direct wiping of surfaces with disinfectant and discouraged spraying as this could cause the virus to be dispersed further.
The World Health Organization also said that UV lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of the skin. The most effective way of disinfecting hands is through washing with soap and water or using alcohol.