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Ultraviolet-C sterilisers not advised for household use due to exposure risks: NEA

More than 8,000 listings of unsafe UVC sterilisers have been removed from online sales platforms.

Ultraviolet-C sterilisers not advised for household use due to exposure risks: NEA

File photo of an ultraviolet-C sterilising device. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: The use of sterilisers based on ultraviolet-C (UVC) radiation technology is not advised for households, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday (Nov 23).

"Many such sterilisers marketed for home use lack safety features that protect users from unintended or accidental exposure to UV radiation.

"To prevent accidental exposure and health risks, members of the public are advised not to purchase any UVC steriliser products that have no safety features," the agency said in a media advisory. 

Those who already own such devices should avoid direct skin exposure to UVC radiation and avoid looking directly into the light source.

Consumers should stop using their UVC steriliser immediately if it does not contain any safety engineering features, especially if the product is intended for use on the skin, said NEA. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UVC disinfection devices have become more available amid an increased demand for such items.

However, NEA advised that UVC-based disinfection should only be applied in industrial or commercial settings with appropriate safety features and safe use practices in order to avoid eye or skin injuries.

Such injuries could include damage to the cornea, with burning sensations and sensitivity to light, as well as burns resulting in redness and peeling of the skin.

What to look out for when buying UVC sterilisers

When purchasing such sterilisers, consumers should only choose those that have safety engineering features that properly contain the UVC sources to prevent exposure to radiation. 

Here are some examples provided by NEA: 

  • For portable UVC lamps, desk lamps, bulbs or tube lamps: Motion sensors that automatically switch the UVC source off when a person or animal approaches it
  • For handheld UVC sterilisers or portable UVC wands: Gravity sensors that automatically switch the UVC source off when the device faces upwards to prevent UVC exposure to the user's eyes
  • For UVC disinfection boxes: Safety features to switch the UVC light off when the disinfection box is open
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NEA added that it has been working with major retailers to actively remove listings of UVC sterilisers that are unsafe and pose risk of exposure to UVC radiation, with all physical stores and online sales platforms being advised against selling such products.

About 8,000 listings of unsafe UVC sterilisers have since been removed from online sale platforms.

"While NEA has made every effort to work with major online sales platform operators in this regard, given the vast number of retailers that may advertise on online sales platforms from time to time, the public is advised to exercise discretion and vigilance when purchasing UVC sterilisers," it said.

"Online sales platform operators such as Amazon, Carousell, Ezbuy.sg, Qoo10.sg and Shopee have exercised diligence in actively removing unsafe UVC sterilisers identified from their platforms. NEA advises other online sales platform operators to follow suit in actively removing listings of unsafe UVC sterilisers."

Safety guidelines for the use of UVC devices in commercial or industrial settings can be found on NEA's website. The agency also provides a list of household disinfectants and self-disinfecting surface-coating products that protect against COVID-19.

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Source: CNA/jt(zl)
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