UV light disinfectant can be harmful, several doctors warn

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Some doctors warn that the exposure to ultraviolet or UV light used as a disinfectant for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has a detrimental effect on human health.

In a report by Ivan Mayrina on GMA News “24 Oras” on Tuesday, Dr. Jay Racoma, ophthalmologist, said that excessive exposure to UVC radiation could cause the eye to have photokeratitis or photo conjunctivitis.

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“The outer parts of the eyes, the cornea and the conjunctiva so same way that our body is covered by skin, the conjunctiva is the covering of the eye, and the cornea is the outer part of the eye so sila ‘yong unang tatamaan if ever by UVC radiation,” Racoma explained.

“If there’s prolonged exposure to the eyes, which will result in photokeratitis, and this will result in pain, irritation, redness swelling, and temporary blurring,” he added.

The Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology and the Philippine Cornea Society have announced that frequent exposure to such radiation can cause cataracts.

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Recently, some journalists in Baguio City suffered eye problems after being exposed to the UV-C disinfecting robot that the city will use to fight COVID-19.

“Hindi ko na maidilat. ‘Pag dinidilat ko siya nakikita ko puro puti lang. Hinilamusan ko nang hinilamusan ng tubig, wala pa rin talaga,” one the media said.

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Using UV light to disinfect coronavirus

“May something na para siyang mabuhangin sa loob na ayaw dumilat, and then at the same time, meron siyang mga parang bubog sa mata,” another journalist said.

The management of the UV light local government project has apologized to the journalists.

“We sincerely thought we had exercised enough precautions when the press asked to switch the robot on, but it turns out we didn’t. We extend our apologies to the members of the press who were affected, and are updating our protocols to make sure that this does not happen again, moving forward,” said Robotics Activations chief of business development Camille Anton.

“The discomfort from the UV exposure is real but is supposed to be temporary, by all accounts. We remain in contact with those affected to ensure that this is the case,” she added.

The Department of Health had previously stated that there was no substantial evidence that the UV light disinfectant could kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Even the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines has stated that they do not consider UV light disinfectant as medical equipment.

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