Health Canada regulates UV, ozone devices it says could pose risk to people

OTTAWA — Health Minister Patty Hajdu is regulating UV-emitting and ozone-producing cleaning devices she says pose a significant risk to Canadians and don’t live up to their claims that they can help kill viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.

Hajdu signed an interim order Monday requiring devices like UV wands and UV cellphone sanitizers, which emit ultraviolet radiation or generate ozone, to apply for authorization under the Pest Control Products Act.

Previously the devices have not been regulated.

Health Canada says since COVID-19 began there has been an explosion of new devices sold in Canada claiming to control or kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces, water or the air.

They include devices claiming to sanitize cellphones and toys and those that emit ultraviolet radiation or generate ozone to disinfect the air or water in enclosed spaces.

Health Canada issued a warning about the devices last fall and still says it’s not known how effective they are, and warns exposure to high-dose UV radiation or prolonged exposure to low-dose UV radiation can cause serious eye diseases, skin burns and skin cancer.

“To date, Health Canada has not yet received sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they can be used safely or that they work as claimed,” the explanatory note says.

“Health Canada advises Canadians to stop using UV lights and wands that claim to disinfect against the virus that causes COVID-19 especially if the product is for use on the skin.”

The order doesn’t affect devices that use UV radiation to disinfect swimming pools, hot tubs or wastewater treatment systems. It also exempts devices that meet certain requirements including electrical standards, and has automatic locking and shut-off mechanisms.

Exempt devices also cannot claim to prevent, treat or mitigate any disease, with claims limited only to “supplemental sanitization.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2021.

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