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Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2002 Aug;6(8):738-41.

Occupational risk from ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) lamps.

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Division of TB Elimination, NCHSTP, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


The recommended role of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is to reduce the risk of tuberculosis (TB) transmission in health care facilities. However, excess exposure may result in dermatosis and photokeratitis. In one hospital setting in Botswana, two nurses and one housekeeper complained of eye discomfort, 'like sand in the eyes', after working in an administrative office. The following day, one employee noted facial skin peeling. All symptoms resolved over 2-4 days without sequelae. Six weeks later, the syndrome recurred for all three employees. A workplace investigation revealed that the office had been converted from a hospital sputum induction room, and that an unshielded 36-W UVGI lamp was still installed and operational. The on/off switch for the UVGI lamp was immediately adjacent to the fluorescent bulb on/off switch, and did not have a locking mechanism. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that exposure to UVGI (254 nm) be less than 6000 microJ/cm2 (6000 microW approximately = sec/cm2) over a daily 8-hour period on unprotected skin or eyes. In the office, UVGI measurements at eye level and looking directly at the UVGI lamp ranged from a low of 20.0 microW approximately = sec/cm2 when seated to a high of 49.9 microW approximately = sec/cm2 when standing. These irradiance levels result in allowable exposure times of 300 and 120 seconds, respectively, and are the most likely cause of the clinical syndrome described.

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