What is UV Light and Do You Need It?

While you’ve probably heard the term ultraviolet (UV) light used in the context of sunlight, do you know what it actually is? By definition, it’s a form of electromagnetic radiation that can’t be seen by the naked eye. In small doses, it gives you a killer tan that will make all of your friends envious. However, in larger doses, it’s responsible for a number of issues, including sunburn or skin cancer. Because of its potency, people have begun to harness UV light for a number of different applications.

What Are the Effects of UV Light?

Because UV light is so potent, in too strong of doses, it kills cells it comes into contact with. This happens because the light actually damages the DNA in the cells, disrupting the thymine connections in the DNA strand. While this only happens two molecules at a time, repeated exposure can cause more thymine problems to such an extent that the organism can no longer heal itself. At this point, it may develop cancer or simply die if too many of its cells are altered.

In a person, this process is known as sunburn. With just a little UV light, it inspires your body to create more melanin to protect itself, which you’ll see in the form of a tan. However, if you stay in the sun too long, your skin will become damaged. This leads to the red and inflamed skin you’re probably familiar with. Usually, your body will either repair or dispose of these damaged cells, but if any are able to reproduce, you might develop skin cancer instead.

Sources of UV Light


Image via Flickr by Evil Erin

Of course, the sun is the most powerful and obvious source of UV light. It’s not the only one, however. You can also be exposed to UV light from a tanning bed, black light, halogen light, mercury vapor light, fluorescent light, and more. Therefore, be careful of which lights you use in your home.

How You Can Use UV Light

UV light is a great tool you can use in your home to sanitize the area, keep mold from growing, and even neutralize toxins in the air. In fact, because of its potency, many hospitals use a UV light to sterilize rooms and make sure all germs are dead.

When paired with a HEPA filter in your HVAC system, a UV light is a great way to keep your indoor air quality at a healthy level. Generally, the best place to install a UV light for this purpose is inside the air handler and coils in your HVAC system, which kills anything flowing through and prevents nasty mold from growing.

Many people also use low-powered UV lights to help battle seasonal affective disorder, which causes depression, tiredness, and other mood irregularities during the winter months. By sitting near a UV light for a few minutes a day, a person can produce more vitamin D, which might improve their physical and mental health.

Now that you know a little more about UV light, you’ll be able to protect yourself from its dangers while also harnessing its power for good. You’ll have a cleaner and safer home that the whole family can enjoy.