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Aug 20, 2020
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The invisible light can kill viruses and pathogens like the one that causes COVID-19, but experts are raising alarms about the potential safety risks.

The coronavirus pandemic has businesses and homeowners alike seeking out anything that might make shared spaces feel safer and more sanitary. That has some consumers and product manufacturers turning to ultraviolet, or UV light as a potential solution -- specifically, a type of UV light called UVC, which has extra-short wavelengths and enough energy to alter the DNA and RNA of organic cells, which stops them from reproducing.

UVC light has a long history as a proven disinfectant at places like hospitals and laboratories, and businesses including airlines, hotels and retail spaces have been relying on the invisible light more than ever in 2020. The pandemic has also produced a flood of cheap, unregulated, consumer-facing devices for use in the home, including handheld UVC wands that look like lightsabers.

Devices like those are nothing new, but the pandemic-borne surge of interest in them is raising alarms, because UVC light is a known carcinogen, and even a few moments of direct exposure can be hazardous to the eyes and skin.

Now, as research into UVC and the coronavirus continues, regulators, industry leaders and safety science professionals are urging caution. Here's what you need to know -- the science, the safety risks and everything experts say you should take into consideration before bringing any UVC-powered light source into your home.

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