Although UVC wavelength light has been used safely for disinfection for many years in medical settings, advertising and selling UVC light for home use became popular during the pandemic, and many people purchased the product. Unfortunately, since the UVC frequency used by many of the new wands is dangerously high, the wands can give users – and even those nearby – radiation burns to the skin and eyes. Instead of keeping consumers healthy, high UVC light wands brought the risk of serious radiation burns into their homes.
On July 20, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers not to use hand-held sanitizing wands that emit high levels of radiation. The FDA identified several brands of light wands designed for home sanitation that had been found to emit dangerous levels of UVC light radiation, capable of causing radiation burns to eyes and the skin after only a few seconds of use. UVC eye burns cause severe pain and a feeling of “sand in the eyes.” FDA tests of these products showed they exposed not only the user, but any nearby person, to unsafe levels of UVC radiation. The products also failed to include safety information, lacked means of protection for users, and claimed “to disinfect in seconds.”
The FDA cautioned that any home use wand sold advertising it could disinfect in seconds would probably emit unsafe levels of radiation. Tested wands gave “as much as 3,000 times more UVC radiation than the exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.”
The FDA issued Notification of Defect letters to the manufacturers, and asked consumers to submit reports of radiation injuries by handheld wands to the agency through its website. The FDA listed the following brands of UVC disinfecting light wands as defective:
- Safe T Lite from Max-lux Corporation
- OttLite Rechargeable UVC Disinfecting wand, model UV10002M, from OttLite Technologies
- UVILIZER FLIP, model SG-153 from In My Bathroom LLC.
- Portable UV Light Wand Sterilizer, also from In My Bathroom
- Ultraviolet Sterilamp PURPLEGLOW from Vanelc
- Sharper Image UV Sanitizing Portable Wand, model 101362 from MerchSource LLC
- SurfaceSoap UV from PhoneSoap LLC
- Magic UV Light Sanitizer from Magic UV Light Sanitizer
Given the growing market for handheld wands, the FDA also asked consumers to notify it of any other defective UVC light wands.
What causes radiation burns?
Radiation burns are caused when radiation waves emit energy capable of damaging cellular structure. There are different types of radiation waves and different types of radiation burns. UVC radiation belongs to a category of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The sun emits UVA, UVB, and UVC waves. UVB rays create radiation burns in the form of sunburn, while UVA rays cause wrinkle damage to skin over time. Natural UVC radiation interacts with ozone in the atmosphere, so it does not reach humans. However, UVC wavelength radiation can be manufactured and, as with the handheld light wands, can cause radiation burns to the skin and eyes if improperly manufactured or misapplied.
When properly used, UVC radiation has been used safely to disinfect water, air, and nonporous surfaces for many years, for example, against tuberculosis and to disinfect air ducts. Various “germicidal” lamps use wavelengths of UVC or other light in the form of:
- Low-pressure mercury lamps
- Excimer lamp or Far-UVC lamp
- Pulsed xenon lamps
- Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
However, each of these types of germicidal UVC lamps could create health and safety risks depending on the strength of the UVC wavelength used, as well as the extent of the exposure and dose of radiation. Those risks include:
- Severe radiation burns to the skin and eyes
- Exposure to ozone resulting in airway irritation which is generated by some lamps
- Exposure to mercury
Other sources of radiation burns include:
- Manufactured tanning beds and sunlamps using UVB, and UVA rays
- UVC Welding
- Medical grade equipment such as that used for radiation treatments for cancer
- X-ray machines
- Lasers used to resurface skin, remove pigment, remove hair, etc.
- Radio Frequency waves from high frequency transmitters or microwaves
- Working with ionizing radioactive material
- Coming into contact with a sealed radioactive source (which permanently encapsulates a radioactive material in a solid form) used in medical, industrial, or agricultural settings
How are radiation burns categorized?
Radiation burns are categorized similarly to other types of burns based on the degree of severity:
- First-degree burns appear as red, dry skin with moderate pain or itch at the site.
- Second-degree radiation burns appear as red, moist skin with blisters and moderate to severe pain. Skin may slough off in places with a second-degree burn.
- Third-degree burns penetrate the skin’s surface more deeply. Skin appears white or charred and the nerve endings are destroyed.
However, unlike thermal burns which begin to show burn damage on contact with the heat source, some radiation burns from medical radiation therapy may take weeks to present.
What should I do if I suffer a radiation burn?
If you experience a burn injury of any kind, you should seek medical help. Radiation burns, however, often require special treatment.
You should also consult a Minot personal injury attorney. Some radiation burns occur as part of necessary medical treatment, but a burn may happen because of the negligent or improper administration of that treatment. Radiation burns may also result due to overexposure to radiation in the workplace, improper maintenance of radiation producing equipment, a defective radiation emitting product, or a negligent release of radiation.
The personal injury lawyers at Larson Law Firm P.C. have the experience to help you recover for your radiation burn injury, no matter the source. We also have experience securing remedies for those burned by defective products. Contact us to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Minot, Bismarck, or Fargo, or call us today at 701-484-HURT.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson