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Appendix 7: Ultraviolet Light

  1. UV light is harmful, and over-exposure can cause serious skin and eye damage.
  2. Locate UV boxes in low-occupancy areas, preferably in separate rooms, alcoves, or behind a curtain when inside a larger occupied lab. Portable handheld units generally have lower output than fixed bench units, but still offer the potential for harm.
  3. The basic tenets of radiation protection - time, distance, and shielding - apply to UV light. Minimize contact times, maximize distance by working at arm's length and avoiding stooping over the work surface, and use shielding and personal protective equipment.
  4. When purchasing a new UV source, only consider units with retractable or hinged plastic safety covers since these can filter a significant amount of biologically-active UV. Since such intense exposure to UV light degrades plastic over time, it is important to replace these covers every few years, and even sooner if discoloration or cracking is observed.
  5. Keep basic personal protective equipment available and ready for use at light box workstations. This should include a full-face shield designed for UV B & C filtration (typically polycarbonate) and several different sizes of examination-style gloves. Wearing ordinary prescription or safety glasses under the faceshield provides even greater ocular protection, and a full-buttoned lab coat provides good arm, wrist, upper chest, and neck protection.
  6. Be aware of the symptoms of UV over-exposure (i.e. skin reddening, sandy or gritty feeling in the eyes - conjunctivitis). Anyone who experiences them should obtain medical attention and report the incident as soon as possible. Since these symptoms are often delayed by several hours, making prompt diagnosis and medical treatment more difficult, prevention is especially important.