MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Are 'Black Lights' harmful? Eyes, skin?

Date: Tue Jan 11 14:04:50 2000
Posted By: John Moulder, Faculty, Radiation Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 943292093.Me

Are black lights (UV lights) dangerous Peiman:

The phrase "black light" can refer to either ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) lights. Most commonly the phrase "black light" refers to lights that emit 370 nm UV radiation, this frequency is called UVA, or "near UV".

IR lights are generally not hazardous because you will feel the heat before there is any real chance of injury.

UV lights can be quite hazardous, because they can cause damage without producing any real heat.
How dangerous a UV light is depends on:

So the answer to the question of whether a "black light" is hazardous is, "it depends".

I would advise caution around UV lights unless you know that the strength is very low. Even with a low strength UV source I would advise appropriate eye protection.

Reference: Non-Ionizing Radiation, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, 1996.

John Moulder
Radiation Biologist
Medical College of Wisconsin

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