FDA warns against use of UV light in coronavirus disinfection

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The country's Food and Drug Administration is joining the Department of Health in warning the public against the use of ultraviolet light for disinfection against COVID-19.

"We do not advise the use of these devices because they are potentially harmful and not proven to be useful for use in households and offices in preventing COVID-19 transmission," FDA Director General Eric Domingo told CNN Philippines on Monday.

Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said UV light products have to undergo a review from the FDA and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute since they emit radiation. But Domingo clarified that the FDA does not regulate the sale of UV lamps and wands because they are not considered as medical devices.

Vergeire said UV light may cause eye damage, skin burns, and affect the respiratory tract after prolonged use, adding that severe exposure may even injure the cornea. She said UV light can only be used by trained personnel in a controlled facility, such as hospitals.

A number of people, including several media personnel, suffered from photokeratitis after an exposure to a robotic UV light in a government event in Baguio City on Sept. 19. The American Academy of Ophthalmology described photokeratitis as a painful eye condition caused by damage to the eye from UV rays, likening it to having sunburned eyes.

CNN Philippines' Senior Correspondent David Santos was present during the event and was among those who experienced the side effects. He said the demonstration happened prior to a scheduled meeting of National Task Force Against COVID-19 chairman Delfin Lorenzana with government hospitals and other agencies that was covered by the media.

Santos said he, and his camera man, experienced side effects, like redness of the eyes and difficulty to open one's eyes the night after the event. He said that upon consulting a doctor, they were told that their condition will heal in three to four days, but long-term effects, like developing cataract, may happen in the future.

The DOH said the best way to kill the virus is to wipe surfaces using a rug and disinfectant.

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.