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What is The “UV Index,” and Why Should I Care?

I was driving earlier this morning through Ontario on my way to Buffalo for a flight, and the sky was clear and cloudless.  It’s a little on the chilly side up there in the Buffalo area (at least it was at 7am when I was on the road), but on the CBC News I heard an anchor talk about a “very high UV index that will make being outside a little on the burny side.”

What?  I’m going to Dallas right now on a flight, and the UV Index is something that I’ve always just assumed was because we’ve polluted a hole in the ozone, and Nicolas Cage is going to have to deal with aliens like he did in that horrible movie about the sun burning up the Earth.

So what exactly IS the UV Index, how does it affect us, and why should we care?

Well, have you ever been sunburned?  How about melanoma?  Ever had a skin cancer scare?  Sun poisoning?  Blisters?  It’s the ultraviolet rays of the sun’s radiation that make our skin the color of a lobster when we’re out in it.  Did you know that overexposure to the sun can cause cataracts?!

Yeah.  I still love the sun.  That’s probably why I’ll look like a freaking leather catcher’s mitt when I’m 50.

There are three types of ultraviolet radiation:

  • UVA – makes it through the ozone layer
  • UVB – mostly absorbed by the ozone layer; some does reach the Earth’s surface
  • UVC – completely absorbed by the ozone layer and oxygen

Our Environmental Protection Agency has quantified the risk of the amount of UV exposure that we get on a certain day.  From the EPA’s website on sun exposure:

and something a little more helpful, from Wikipedia:

UV Index Description Media Graphic Color Recommended Protection
0—2 No danger to the average person Green Wear sunglasses on bright days; use sunscreen if there is snow on the ground, which reflects UV radiation, or if you have particularly fair skin.
3—5 Little risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Yellow Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with clothing and a hat, and seek shade around midday when the sun is most intense.
6—7 High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Orange Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen having SPF 15 or higher, cover the body with sun protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, and reduce time in the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon (roughly 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during summer in zones that observe daylight saving time).
8—10 Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Red Wear sunscreen, a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat. Do not stay out in the sun for too long.
11+ Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure Violet Take all precautions, including: wear sunglasses and use sunscreen, cover the body with a long-sleeve shirt and trousers, wear a very broad hat, and avoid the sun from two hours before to three hours after solar noon.

I guess that extra four hours a day in the sun over a period of 30 years wasn’t so good for me after all, huh!

When you’re outside this summer, do yourself a favor, wouldja?  Put on some sunscreen!  I’m certainly not one to advocate for staying out of the sun – it’s my favorite source of light after fire!

Thanks, Dermis.net and J Grundy!

Enter The Ultraviolet Ninja

That sounds like an excellent psychedelic kung-fu film, doesn’t it?

I’ve been doing my normal duties of researching and digging around for articles lately, and in my search I’ve found several items pertaining to using ultraviolet light as a disinfectant in the home.  Some of these products look pretty interesting, and some of them look like pretty interesting Home Shopping Network stuff that you sell at garage sales once you realize you bought and stored something without using it, ever.  I’ll let you be the judge.

First, the UV Onion, from Yun Li:

uvonion

The UV Onion is a disinfecting device that is both solar and powered by the strength of the UV ninja.  It looks like an onion, so obviously you’d probably use it in the kitchen – Yun Li’s site says it’s made for all rooms of the house.  It has a solar storage battery inside as well for those times when the sun just doesn’t shine.

uvonion

uvonion

Next up, the Photon Scorpion Finder Freedom Micro Keychain Light from Photon Light, Inc:

scorpionfinder

Scorpion Under Ultraviolet Light © Kenton L Elliott

Before I get any further, scorpions, you and your friend the spider can keep your creepy, nasty, misshapen butts away from me at all times.  We have nothing to talk about, ever.  Photon Light has made it so you can detect scorpions in your boots, sleeping bags, under piles of wood, and in other places these little poisonous vermin like to hide.  Apparently scorpions have fluorescent bodies, and the power of our friend the ultraviolet ninja helps to illuminate them so you can give them the boot, per se.  Nasty.

The Scorpion Finder runs about $16.  (thanks, Gadgeteer!)

scorpion finder

Next, the VIOLight Toothbrush Sanitizer from VIOLight:

violight

Makes pretty good sense, huh?  Your toothbrush lives in the bathroom.  You take your pants off in the bathroom, along with doing all kinds of other somewhat disgusting things in the bathroom.  Often, your toothbrush lives near the sink in the bathroom where you wash your hands after doing certain relatively disgusting things in the bathroom.  Doesn’t it make sense that you might want to use the power of ultraviolet light to clean the funk off of your toothbrush?  After all, you do put it in your mouth.

violight

Amazon has this gadget for about $40.

The next ultraviolet gadget is considerably more expensive, retailing at around $280.  Nevertheless, meet the Purelight UV Sterilizing Wand from Gaiam:

purelight

The Purelight wand has a 15,000 hour UV lamp, several settings, and the feeling that you’re crippling bacteria and other nasties forever.  Try to reproduce NOW, microscopic vermin!

purelight

The problem with anything that uses ultraviolet light is basically an issue of form factor – to disinfect something with UV light, you have to have the device in the place you want to sterilize for between 10 and 25 seconds.  With most of the devices out there (take the Purelight wand for example) you might want to sterilize your mattress, but that might take a long time depending on how large your mattress really is.  As form factor increases and prices decrease on this gear, I think the UV disinfecting trend will become more commonplace in homes.  This is of course just my opinion, and we all know how that can go.

MINUS: The Garbage Can That Doesn’t Smell Like Rotting Death

I usually notice that I forgot to throw out the bag of garbage in the kitchen around day two of the empty raw chicken package being in there, especially if it’s humid.  My beagle Gracie certainly notices if anyone puts anything in there, and she does her “I’m smelling the can but not *really* smelling the can enough so you don’t see me smelling the can” face.  How freaking adorable and disgusting.  But designer Cem Tutuncuoglu has invented a can that not only freezes your garbage, but also kicks the snot out of it with our good friend and the ninja of wavelengths, ultraviolet light.  The designer claims that the can not only kills and de-stinks your garbage, but also gives off “a pleasing light” in your kitchen.

Check out these images:

minus

minus

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Check out Cem‘s website, but be forewarned – you’ll be bombed with a whole bunch of publicity this guy has gotten for some reason.  It’s actually a task to find his work through all of that self-love.

Mini UV-C Disinfectant Wand

I feel like there has been a ton of info on ultraviolet light lately as a germicidal method.  I just ran across an article giving a review on this little mini-UV class C light that sanitizes surfaces:

mini_wand_toilet

Okay, now is it me, or is that lady way too happy to be using her mini-wand on the ol’ porcelain throne?  She is thrilled!  Using the Germ Guardian UV-C Mini Sanitizer Wand is not only good for killing bacteria, but it must be a hoot too!

Simply pass the Germ Guardian Mini Sanitizer Wand over surfaces to kill up to 99% of bacteria and viruses.  Also fights unwanted odors and allergens like mold spores and dust mites. Ideal for — toilets, showers, phones, computers, sinks, countertops, bedding and shoes. Take it with you when you travel!

I guess it’s pretty easy to use – button on, button off operation, and it’s good on batteries. It has a safety device in it that turns the lamp off if it’s tilted up – probably to prevent eye damage – which, according to Scott Merrill over at CrunchGear, was kind of a pain in practice although a good idea in theory.

Gosh, even I’m excited for the lady nuking that toilet!

miniwand_hand_shot

Blue Light Kills the MSRA Staph Bacteria

There’s an article about to be published in a medical journal about the Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MSRA) germ – apparently blue light is the bacteria’s kryptonite.  Scientists and researchers have found that ultraviolet light permanently damages the bacteria about 90% of the time – enough to make a breakthrough.

From the article:

In a study that will appear in the April 2009 issue of the journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, researchers from the New York Institute of Technology, in Westbury, NY, detail how shining blue light on cultures containing MRSA damages them permanently and causes up to a 90.3 percent reduction of the infections. The light has to be in the 470-nanometer wavelength, and tests concluded that the higher the dosage, the more bacteria are killed.

In addition to working so efficiently, the therapy does not involve additional medication, and, furthermore, it doesn’t harm the patients by subjecting them to UV radiation, like other techniques do. High-dose photo-irradiation was proven to almost completely annihilate two of the most potent strands of the Staph, namely the US-300 strain of CA-MRSA and the IS-853 strain of HA-MRSA, which are very widespread in the United States and represent the most commonly-acquired infections in the community, and the hospital, respectively.

Go, ultraviolet light!

blue-light-destroys-mrsa-bug-2

Thanks, Softpedia News!