Ultraviolet radiation has a wide array of uses. But one of the most common uses is for germicidal purposes. You can’t use just any kind of UV ray for this purpose, however, as UV radiation is made up of three major rays. And only one of them is used for germicidal purposes. Which is it? And how does it differ from the other components of ultraviolet rays?
The Ultraviolet Rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC
Light and heat are not the only things the sun provides us with. In the solar radiation package are infrared, X-rays, visible light, gamma rays, microwaves, radio waves, and of course, ultraviolet rays.
Zooming into the ultraviolet rays, scientists found out that it is made of three separate rays. The first is UVA, which means Ultraviolet A. The other two are UVB and UVC. Of these three, only UVA and UVB make it to us. Even UVB barely makes to us, as it contains only 5% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches us, and UVA has the remaining 95%. The ozone later devours UVC rays before they reach us, and we should be thankful. Direct exposure to it could be very dangerous.
How are these ultraviolet rays different from one another?
Differences Between UVA, UVB, and UVC
Here are the major differences between UVA, UVB, and UVC:
1. The nature of the three rays
The wavelengths at which they exist are different. UVA gets to us at 315-400 nm, UVB at 280-315 nm, and UVC at 100-280 nm.
These rays also have varying levels of penetration. Although UVC doesn't make it to us, man-made UVC only goes as far as the outermost cells of our skin. UVB only goes as far as the topmost layer of our skin and no further. UVA, however, has the highest penetrating power. It easily gets to the deep layers of our skin.
Today, sunlight is not the only source of ultraviolet rays. We can get UVA and UVB from tanning beds. Mercury lamps and welding torches are sources of UVC.
2. The uses of the three rays
These radiations have benefits. UVA and UVB are used for curing purposes on adhesives, ink, coatings. You may also use UVA for UV inspection and UV fluorescing, while UVB works for disinfection and sterilization to some extent. However, UVC is the most effective and widely used for disinfection and sterilization. This high level of effectiveness has ensured that hospitals now depend on UVC for effective sanitization.
UVC is used for water sterilization, surface disinfection, and other sterilization purposes. Even coronavirus can be killed by UVC. However, the radiation should never be used directly on a human for reasons you’ll find in the next section.
3. The Side Effects of the rays
Although ultraviolet rays could be beneficial in many ways, it can be dangerous too. Especially when you expose your skin to it. UVB tans your skin on exposure over time. It could even cause skin burns. Another effect is that it boosts whatever is responsible for aging in your skin. And the worst effect is that it enhances the risk of skin cancer development.
UVA, unlike UVB, tans your skin almost immediately you expose your skin to it. But just like UVB, it promotes wrinkling and skin aging. It also increases the risk of skin cancer development.
Finally, UVC could cause severe sunburns, increase the risk of cancer development. These are the reasons you should not expose yourself to direct UVC.
Precautions to Take When Using Ultraviolet Lamp at Home
As you may now know, UV light can be a good guy when used rightly and a villain when abused. You should try to encourage more of its right usage and limit the opposite. That is why you have to take some necessary precautions when using UV light.
- Learn how to use the device. Don’t fumble with it if you don’t know your way around it. Usually, UV lamps come with user manuals for you to go through and help you get familiar with the devices.
- Time your usage if you’re using it in usually crowded rooms. But only use it when the room is empty. Some UV LEDs come with inbuilt timers for this purpose.
- Never look directly at the led. It could damage your eyes.
- Make sure kids or pets don’t go near the device at any time, whether on or off.
Consider your own safety first before you use any UV product. And make sure you only use the best quality of UV LEDs to ensure that you don’t harm yourself from malfunctioning devices.