UV radiation is known to cause acute and chronic eye and skin damage. The present case report describes a 90 min accidental exposure to UV-C radiation of 26 medical school students. Germicidal lamps were lit due to a malfunctioning of the timer system. Several hours after irradiation exposure, all subjects reported the onset of ocular symptoms, subsequently diagnosed as photokeratitis, and skin damage to the face, scalp and neck. While the ocular symptoms lasted 2–4 days, the sunburn-like condition produced significant erythema followed by deep skin exfoliation. The irradiation was calculated to be approximately 700 mJ cm−2 absorbed energy, whereas the actual radiation emitted by the lamps was 0.14 mW cm−2 (the radiometric measurements confirmed these calculi, because the effective irradiance measured from the height of the autopsy table to about 1 m under the UV-C lamp varied from 0.05 to 0.25 mW cm−2) but, more likely, the effective irradiance, according to skin phototype and symptoms, was between 50 and 100 mJ cm−2. The ocular and skin effects produced by such a high irradiation (largely higher than that accepted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists [ACGIH] threshold limit values [TLVs]) appeared reversible in a relatively short time.
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Vol. 82 • No. 4