Robotics company apologizes for UV disinfection incident in Baguio City

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A demonstration of a UV light disinfection robot in Baguio City on Saturday left a number of people with eye irritation.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — The company Robotic Activations has apologized after a demonstration of its ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection robot in Baguio City on Saturday left a number of people with eye irritation.

From five to 10 people, including members of the media, reportedly required some medical treatment due to exposure to UV light.

"We sincerely thought we had exercised enough precautions when the press asked to switch the robot on, but it turns out we didn't," said Camille Anton, the company's chief of business development, on Sunday.

Anton said they are already updating their protocols to ensure the incident doesn't happen again. She also assured that the use of UV disinfection is safe as long as proper precautions are in place.

Robotic Activations showed off "Keno", its UV-C disinfection robot, at the Baguio Convention Center before the National Task Force CODE team. It is designed to kill harmful pathogens and is supposedly "equipped with state-of-the-art safety and precision sensors." The company added that the machine can disinfect large areas "without human exposure to chemicals."

"The discomfort from UV exposure is real, but is supposed to be temporary, by all accounts. We remain in contact with those affected to ensure that this is the case," Anton said. "We have reached out, apologized and offered assistance to them, and are hopeful that they will recover quickly."

Both the World Health Organization and the Department of Health have warned against the use of disinfecting UV lamps amid the threat of COVID-19. Health officials said UV light may pose harmful effects if not used properly, including eye and skin burns.

The DOH also cautioned against disinfecting sprays, saying it can further "aerosolize" or spread droplets into the air. It said it is still best to manually wipe surfaces using a rag and disinfectant to kill the virus.