Ultraviolet Rant – Scorched Ape Eye Club

Having now had a chance to take a look at the likely culprit, assuming a repetition of the previous incident, all I can say is You Completely Irresponsible Fucks. I am having flashbacks to yelling at Naomi Wu for irresponsible deployment of germicidal UV designs in 2020.

I am gonna try to very briefly summarize some things which I regularly see journalists and others trip over. For a shorthand, ultraviolet light has been broken into three bands, UV-A (315-400nm), UV-B (280nm-315), and UV-C (100-280nm) Any wavelengths shorter than 100nm is ionizing radiation, so X-rays. The fun for that is looking at that bulb’s emission spectrum. It is primarily a UV-C emitter, but that’s not all it does. There is also UV-B & A emitter, but those are much lower by percentage. By percentage of biological consequence, it doesn’t take much UV-B & A to give sunburns.

We don’t usually talk about UV-C much because it’s easily blocked by our atmosphere and the ozone layer in particular. The ozone layer also helps with UV-B. To remember from physics classes, the shorter your wavelength, the more energy per photon but also the easier it is to run into things. Without that protective layer, life gets tough on Planet Earth as we normally refer to UV-C as “germicidal UV”. Oddly enough, it also gets referred to as “skin-safe UV” because your dead layer of skin is enough to stop it from getting to the sensitive germinative skin cells.

But not your eyes.

Viruses and bacteria don’t have a protective layer of dead skin cells either. Cell walls and protein sheaths aren’t enough to protect them from a UV-C. Might be good enough to cope with UV-B, but we don’t like to use UV-B for raves as that marries “only slightly less phototoxic than UV-C” to “can penetrate all the way down”. By percentage of biological consequence, it doesn’t take much UV-B & A to give sunburns, which is why even that small amount in the emission spectrum may be enough to give attendees sunburns. Melanoma City (not to be confused with Melbourne, FL or Australia).

This particular lamp is meant to be mounted in a sterilization unit. The kind of thing where you wheel it into a specially designed surgical suite full of equipment SPECIFICALLY CHOSEN such that bleach and UV-C don’t cause them to quickly degrade, shoo the humans out of the room, lock the door, and run it for an hour.

As noted earlier and attested to by the victims of two incidents at the same damn club, UV-C will scorch your cornea with photokeratitis, which is just a fancy way to say sunburn of the eye.

If you’ve had Snow Blindness, you’ve done it with UV-B.

If you’ve had Welder’s Flash, you’ve done it with UV-C.

Because your cornea is highly specialized, transparent, rapidly regenerating and it is more sensitive to sunburn than all the rest of your skin. But it also rejuvenates much faster. The eye crusties when you wake up are sloughed off corneal cells. Corneal burns are extremely uncomfortable. And you are going have very diminished vision because you burnt the transparent thing you look through, ya idgit. We give you protective eyewear for a reason. Except, at a club, this is an out of context problem. IT SHOULDN’T BE THERE!

If someone tries to claim this was there for germicidal purposes to protect against $INSERT_PATHOGEN_HERE, go ahead and laugh at them for thinking that would work in any random space, much less one with people in it. We have to do serious planning for germicidal things to make sure it works. Putting this lamp in the club certainly would have made things fluoresce and look awesome, no question there. But it was also slowly roasting everyone’s corneas, much like being unprotected on the surface of Mars or the Moon.

On a positive note, unlike what people kept saying as they pointed tweets and articles at me, it wasn’t a laser. A pulsed UV laser hit will get you Instant Cataracts as polymerizes the material of your lens like the white of an egg. Other people pointed out UV-C LEDs are a thing now. Yes, they are. But they aren’t cheap (yet), have iffy reliability, and not very high power. That will all change with time, so get ready for that I guess. But there is a place I absolutely would have wanted this lamp in the club: the HVAC system

Trying to sterilize surfaces with UV-C pretty much anywhere outside of a surgical suite is dumb. If we want to reduce airborne transmission, we need to do air sterilization. To effectively do that we need lamps powerful enough to work on air flowing through ducts at speed. We do not want to share space with a UV-C air sterilizer because we like to see with our eyeballs. The UV-C equivalent of the little fly killing lamps aren’t quite gonna cut it, you’re gonna need big fuckers. So, just do it in the HVAC system.

Maybe we’ll stop having Legionella outbreaks too.