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FDA issues warning about UV 'sanitizing' wands

Some manufacturers market these UV wands for disinfecting surfaces and killing germs, but they can have unsafe levels of radiation.
Credit: FDA
UV wand

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers about the potential risk of injury associated with the use of certain brands of ultraviolet (UV) wands. Do not use these UV wands for disinfection because they may expose the user or any nearby person to unsafe levels of ultraviolet-C (UV-C) radiation and may cause injury to the skin, eyes, or both after a few seconds of use.

The FDA is aware that some manufacturers are marketing unsafe UV wands to consumers to disinfect surfaces and kill germs in the home or similar spaces outside most health care settings. The FDA recommends that consumers do not use these products and consider using safer alternative methods.

For a list of affected products, see the table below. These products may also be labeled under additional names. Please note that the FDA will continue to update the list as corrective actions are implemented by manufacturers and if the FDA discovers additional products are unsafe.

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Recommendations for Consumers

  • Do not use the UV wands listed above.
  • Be aware that the FDA’s testing shows that the UV wands listed above give off unsafe levels of UV-C radiation and may cause injuries to the eyes or skin of a user or person nearby.
  • Be aware that the UV wands listed above do not have adequate safety features to reduce the risk of injury to the user or persons nearby from unsafe levels of UV-C radiation.
  • Do not use UV wands that lack safety instructions or information on the radiation emitted and associated risks.
  • Follow all safety instructions included with UV wands, including instructions to protect skin and eyes from UV-C exposure.
  • Consider using alternative disinfection methods, such as chemical cleaners to kill germs in the home or similar spaces.
  • Read more about UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection, and Coronavirus.

Product Description and Background

UV wands are handheld products intended to give off UV-C radiation to disinfect surfaces generally outside the healthcare setting. The products tested by FDA were shown to expose the user or any nearby person to unsafe levels of UV-C radiation. The FDA also identified some common features among the products tested, such as lack of safety information, claims to disinfect in seconds, and the lack of any means to protect users.

When a product is advertised to disinfect in seconds, it likely means that it gives off an unsafe level of UV-C radiation. The FDA testing determined that some UV wand products give off at a distance of about two inches, as much as 3,000 times more UV-C radiation than the exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation ProtectionExternal Link Disclaimer. The user or any person near the UV wands listed in the table above may experience an injury to the skin (erythema, burn-like skin reaction), eyes (photokeratitis), or both after a few seconds of exposure. The type of eye injury associated with exposure to UV-C causes severe pain and a feeling of having sand in the eyes.

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FDA Actions

The FDA has collected and tested samples of UV wands from multiple manufacturers. The FDA has issued Notification of Defect Letters to manufacturers whose products were found to give off unsafe levels of radiation and pose a significant risk of injury to consumers. The FDA plans to work with each manufacturer to ensure adequate corrective actions.

Reporting Problems with Your Product

Any member of the public, including a manufacturer, may use the Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form to submit a report on any radiation incident or potentially hazardous event.

Consumers can also help the FDA identify additional UV wands that may give off unsafe levels of radiation, by submitting information through the Allegations of Regulatory Misconduct Form.

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