UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection and Coronavirus

UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection and Coronavirus


Given the current outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, consumers may be interested in purchasing ultraviolet-C (UVC) lamps to disinfect surfaces in the home or similar spaces. The FDA is providing answers to consumers’ questions about the use of these lamps for disinfection during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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Ultraviolet Radiation and SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus

Q: Can UVC lamps inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

  • A: UVC radiation is a known disinfectant for air, water, and nonporous surfaces. UVC radiation has effectively been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis. For this reason, UVC lamps are often called “germicidal” lamps.
  • UVC radiation has been shown to destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus, which is a different virus from the current SARS-CoV-2 virus. The destruction ultimately leads to inactivation of the virus. (see Far-UVC light (222 nm) efficiently and safely inactivates airborne human coronaviruses  ). UVC radiation may also be effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). For more information see “Q: Where can I read more about UV radiation and disinfection?”. However, currently there is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
    • Dose and duration: Many of the UVC lamps sold for home use are of low dose, so it may take longer exposure to a given surface area to potentially provide effective inactivation of a bacteria or virus.

UVC radiation is commonly used inside air ducts to disinfect the air. This is the safest way to employ UVC radiation because direct UVC exposure to human skin or eyes may cause injuries, and installation of UVC within an air duct is less likely to cause exposure to skin and eyes.

  • Ask whether the lamp contains mercury. This information may be helpful if the lamp is damaged and you need to know how to clean up and/or dispose of the lamp.


Q: Where can I read more about UV radiation and disinfection?

A: For general information about UV radiation, see Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation.

For more technical details, see these reports and publications:

For questions about this page, contact 1-888-INFO-FDA or the Office of Health Technology 7: Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health (OIR)/Division of Radiological Health (DRH) at RadHealth@fda.hhs.gov.

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