The past quarter of the year has seen ‘COVID-killing’ UV sterilising devices enter the Electronics category recall charts for the first time since the pandemic began. With people more eager than ever to ensure their devices such as smartphones are safe to use and free from contamination, sales are on the rise – and so are the risks associated with some of these products.
Since July, there have been six recalls of UV sterilisers (out of a total of 53 recalls in the Electronics category) listed on Safety Gate, the European rapid alert system for dangerous non-food items. Countries like China have historically used UV sterilisers on money, buses and elevators, but European consumers now appear to be generating an uptick in sales in the west, and causing a concerning rise in recalls.
Regulators are urging caution on the devices, which are being marketed as “magic UV wands to eliminate all the coronavirus germs on your cellphone and make your home a safer place to be.”
The increase in sales in Europe is causing a spike in recalls in the continent – most prominently in the UK – although the risk is widespread. Retailers must be wary as to the origins and safety credentials of items they are selling or listing. However, with more people choosing to buy online, this is becoming increasingly challenging to police as the ability for scammers to infiltrate through third-party sellers is heightened. It is here that some responsibility falls to the consumer to exercise caution in the selection process and not simply opt for the cheapest or most convenient wand.
Certified UV wands can come at a high expense, but you cannot put a cost on safety, especially when it comes to the seriousness of the potential dangers associated with UV sterilisers, which emit the most dangerous type of rays on the spectrum – UVC. They must be handled carefully.
When deployed artificially, UVC can be an extremely useful tool. For decades, it has been used in professional environments to disinfect water, pharmaceutical and medical products, money, buses, elevators, and hospital surfaces. It’s extremely effective, killing up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.
While these products are subject to regulation, consumer-facing wands are often not, and can cause a number of risks to the consumer. A scan of the recall data revealed risks including the potential to cause skin and eye damage, which can take several days to become apparent. Safety information is minimal and many do not come with child-proof locks. There’s also risks associated with the fact that fake wands won’t actually remove the bacteria – potentially leaving people exposed to bacteria that they thought they had got rid of.
If purchasing a UV steriliser to use at home, we recommend always checking the CE certification and buying from trusted sellers who do all they can to ensure the safety of the final user.
For manufacturers and retailers, the data has proven that recalls are already happening and it’s an issue that is picking up momentum in the media. To ensure recalls of this nature do not become a regular fixture on recall charts, something must change – and fast.
It is worth keeping front of the mind that these products represent real dangers if misused. It is vital that organisations considering importing, manufacturing or selling UV sterilisers for consumer use adhere to all quality checks and regulations and regularly check and report unscrupulous sellers.
It only takes one incident for a company’s reputation to be called into question. It is therefore essential that recall strategies and action plans to protect consumer health are in place to minimise the risk of faulty or fake products ending up in the homes of people across Europe.