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Posted by Doug Root on 23rd Jul 2021

What’s the Difference between UV and UVC Lights Bulbs?

Just as there is a great deal of variance between the different types of incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent tube lights out there, there are some significant, key differences between the different types of UV bulbs in the lighting industry. A frequently asked question is whether or not UVC light bulbs are the same as UV bulbs.

The answer is both yes and no. On one hand, UVC light bulbs are one category of UV light bulbs, which emit UV light, also known as ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet light is light on the electromagnetic spectrum occupying a range of wavelengths between 100 to 400 nm (nanometers).

UV C radiation, (AKA UV C light) has the shortest wavelengths of the three, falling between 100-280nm. The next shortest is UVB radiation, between 280 and 315nm, and finally UVA, with the longest wavelengths of all, between 315 and 400 nm, and nearest to visible light.

Therefore, to put it simply, all UVC light bulbs are UV lights, but not all UV lights are UVC lights - nor should they be treated the same.

What Is the Purpose of a UVC Light Bulbs?

UVC light, which is the shortest wavelength within the ultraviolet spectrum, is well known for its damaging effects on human skin and eyes. Exposure to this form of UV radiation is known to cause sunburn and is implicated in the formation of skin cancer and other adverse health effects.

This is because UVC light is overtly damaging to genetic material. When cells, whether human cells, animal cells or bacteria, are exposed to UVC light, their genetic material is irreparably damaged. This prevents cellular replication, effectively sterilizing or killing the organism. Because it works by damaging genetic material, UVC lights can be used to destroy viruses as well.

Because of this feature, UVC light bulbs are sometimes referred to as germicidal lamps or germicidal UV lights. These types of germicidal light bulbs can be used to treat wastewater, sterilize medical equipment and food preparation surfaces, and much more. They can be used cost-effectively and do not require the use of harsh or harmful chemicals.

Are UVC Light Bulbs Harmful to Humans?

Considering the fact that light bulbs are generally used to provide area lighting, it might come as a surprise to come that there are light bulbs that can be hazardous to human health, but believe it or not, there are. UVC light bulbs are some of these, and extreme care should be taken when handling or operating them.

Some UVC wavelengths have been shown to be damaging to human eyes and skin, potentially causing conditions such as skin cancer or photokeratitis. It is possible for UVC bulbs to be safely used or implemented for safe sterilization of tools, equipment or settings, provided certain safety protocols are followed - if you have any questions about germicidal UV lamps, feel free to contact us.

What about the Other Types of UV Bulbs?

However, as it has been demonstrated, UVC lamps are not the only types of UV bulbs on the market, and there are still two other forms of UV lamps, being UVA and UVB lamps, respectively. Oftentimes these lamps are referred to as black lights or blacklight-blue bulbs. For the most part, the light emitted by black lights is UVA light and is not considered overtly harmful to humans, at least in limited doses. Blacklights also have a range of recreational and commercial applications, due to the fact that UV light bulbs make some materials fluoresce (glow).

-Creating mood lighting

Probably the best known application of black lights is to create mood lighting, in clubs and other places of public gathering. Blacklight bulbs placed in these locations produce the popular effects of projecting an eerie bluish-purple light that makes white clothing glow vibrantly.

-Stain detection and as a sanitation aid

Many waste products, like human and pet waste, glow under a black light. This makes blacklights useful for inspecting sanitation procedures in kitchens, bathrooms, sinks (and even on carpets) where uncleaned spots will show up under the blacklight.

-Detecting traces in certain liquids

Many commercial and industrial fluids are treated with a tracer that glows under a black light. This makes it easy to detect leaks by using a black light. For example, many automotive fluids are fluorescent, which means they glow under black lights. Sometimes mechanics carry small, pocket-sized black lights to help them assess leaks more easily.

-Identifying counterfeits

Black lights can also be used to detect forged banknotes or counterfeit art, among many other similar purposes for validation and identification.

Still scratching your head about the difference between UVC light bulbs and the other types of UV bulbs? Give us a call and we’ll field your questions. You can reach us at 1-888-988-2852; let us know what you’re looking to learn more about and we’ll fill you in.