Ultraviolet lights latest tech gadgets in fight against coronavirus

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hospitals have been using ultraviolet lights for years to kill bacteria and viruses and to disinfect surgical areas. That same technology is also sold as wands and other UV products you can use at home.

Consumer Reports looks into the science behind UV sanitizing lights. Can the same technology kill the coronavirus?

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Ultraviolet technology has been used in hospitals, research labs and other areas that need to be germ-free.

But now, you may notice that same technology for sale everywhere from Costco to drug stores.

That's because UV light kills up to 99.9% of germs, bacteria and viruses, and that may include the coronavirus.

"The thing about Ultraviolet is it is of sufficient energy to cause damage to cells, DNA and other biological material, which can make it a powerful disinfectant against viruses and bacteria," said Consumer Reports Chief Scientist James Dickerson.

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Most of the lights you'll see for sale are UVC. The light needs direct exposure to the intended surface to kill the coronavirus. That means if the beam of light can be blocked by dust or dirt or even small crevices, the UV light may not be fully effective.

Also, many of the UV lamps sold for home-use are low dose, so it may take a longer exposure to a given surface area to potentially provide effective inactivation of a bacteria or virus. Waving the light quickly over your countertops likely will not be enough.

Because UV can burn eyes and skin, never ever look directly at it.

"Some devices turn off when opened, but if you own a product with an exposed UV lamp, never look directly at the light," said Dickerson.

If you'll be purchasing one of the UV sanitizing lights, be wary that UVC light can degrade certain materials, like plastic, polymers, and dyed textiles.

I have been using one since the pandemic began and it did degrade my phone case over time.

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