Ultraviolet (UV) light is an electromagnetic radiation. However, its wavelength is shorter than that of the visible light but longer than that of the X-rays. The Ultraviolet light is invisible to a naked human eye. The UV light is naturally emitted by the sun since it composes about 10% of the total light produced (Maura 214). Additionally, the UV light can also be produced by specialized lamps that contain mercury and electric arcs. The UV light is not considered as an ionizing radiation since its photons do not have the energy to ionize atoms. However, the radiation can act as a catalyst to chemical reactions in many substances while it makes others to fluoresce. The effects of the ultraviolet light are way larger than just heating; therefore, there are many uses of the radiation in day-to-day life. On the other hand, the UV radiation has its negative effects, especially after a long time of exposure. Overexposure to UV light has various undesirable effects on living things, and in severe cases, it causes skin cancer in humans. The living organisms would be completely destroyed if the sun rays which are the main source of UV light were not filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, to understand the concept of UV, the discussion will look at the uses, advantages, disadvantages as well as how this radiation was discovered.
The Discovery of the UV Light
In 1801, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, a German physicist discovered the UV light. He observed that invisible rays right at the end of the spectrum caused the darkening of the silver chloride soaked paper quickly than the violet light. Johann referred to the radiation as the oxidizing rays, thereby emphasizing on its ability to cause chemical reactivity. He referred to the rays as oxidizing in order to differentiate it from the heat rays which had previously been discovered. The scientists adopted the name chemical rays which remained in use throughout the 19th century but was later dropped and the name “ultraviolet radiation” was approved.
The scientists discovered that the UV rays have short wavelengths, can kill germs, and can cause chemical reactions. As technology advanced, people developed ultraviolet lamps namely, the glass lamp, hot quartz, and the cold quartz. The UV light is further divided into three categories; UVA, UVB, and UVC. In this case, the UVA rays are the closest to the visible spectrum and are the longest; they penetrate deep into the skin and may cause premature wrinkling and aging. The UVB rays are the therapeutic rays whose long-term exposure can burn the skin (Maura 214). The UVC rays are chemically active and are germicidal, and since they are the farthest, they are less penetrating but can burn the skin surface. Following the discovery of the ability of the UV light to kill bacteria and harmful organisms in the year 1878, it became widely used as a sterilizer.
Benefits of the UV light
The UV light has brought about benefits, especially in the health of the human beings and other living animals. The UV rays play a momentous role in the environment by providing the warmth that is critical for all living things to survive. However, overexposure may create major health risks. Nonetheless, moderate exposure to UV light has proven to be medically beneficial. Firstly, the UV light from the sun is essential to our bodies as it facilitate the production of vitamin D which plays a significant role in strengthening the bones, immune system, and the muscles. Additionally, moderate exposure is said to lower the risk of getting various cancers such the colon cancer. Secondly, the UV light is a useful component in treating some skin ailments such as psoriasis. In fact, this is a condition that makes the skin to shed its cells frequently, thus causing some scaly and itchy patches. Thus, exposure to the UV light slows down the growth of the skin cells, thereby relieving the symptoms (Shamim 37). The UV rays are beneficial to the skin since they allow growth of the melanin; a skin pigment that plays a significant role in preventing skin cancer.
Thirdly, exposure to the ultraviolet rays is said to improve a person’s mood since it stimulates the pineal gland, which in turn produces tryptamines a chemical which causes an enhancement in our moods (Shamim 56). Fourthly, the light is usually important for most animals and especially the insects, birds, and reptiles since it improves their vision or makes them easily identify what a naked human eye cannot. Additionally, the light plays a major role in insect navigation as they move through the air and this explains why most insects are attracted to light, thus altering their movements. Fifthly, due to the ability of the UV rays to kill germs and bacteria, the light plays a significant role in sterilization and disinfection, especially in shared medical and piercing tools (Shamim 77). Lastly, the UV light is crucial in solving crimes since while using the light over a surface, it illuminates and detects the fingerprints that might have been left by a perpetrator, thus making it easier to identify the criminals using their biometrics. Therefore, it is clear that the ultraviolet light has a major role in our lives and the lives of other living animals.
Disadvantages of Ultraviolet Light
The UV light has its benefits; however, it has its disadvantages too, though the cons can be prevented. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays has adverse effects on human beings, animals, and objects. Firstly, overexposure to UV light usually causes skin cancer since UV is a human environmental hazard. Medical research has proven that exposure to direct sunlight is responsible for the most of the skin cancers. Additionally, the exposure to direct sunlight for an extended duration causes sunburns on the skin. The burns are as a result of the energy absorbed by the UV rays (Maura 215). Secondly, the UV light damages the immune system after a long time of exposure. Doctors believe that sunburns cause changes in the distribution and the roles of the infection-fighting white blood cells.
Thirdly, long time exposure to UV light, especially in higher intensities damages the eyes. A short time exposure to the ultraviolet light can cause snow blindness. However, the effect may later disappear after some days but can have a long-term consequence later in life. Therefore, it is advisable to protect the eyes to avoid cumulative eye damage. Fourthly, the UV light enhances aging of the skin since it damages the skin tissues and the collagen. The damage causes wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and brown spots (Maura 215). Lastly, the UV light weakens the plastics and hence loses their strength, making them break easily. Additionally, prolonged exposure to UV light enhances discoloring of most of the objects. Therefore, it is clear that ultraviolet rays have adverse effects on human, animals, and objects. However, the damages caused can be prevented or avoided if long time exposure to the light is minimized.
The ultraviolet rays are the electromagnetic waves which are emitted naturally by the sun. However, the light can be produced from human-made gadgets. The light was discovered by a Physicist who realized that there was an effect beyond the violet color. In this case, the invisible UV light darkened the paper when soaked in silver chloride. Following its discovery, the ultraviolet light has had numerous uses and played a major role, especially in the medical industry for sterilization and disinfecting. People have also realized the medical benefits attached to ultraviolet rays, especially when there is moderate exposure. Since people have also been able to create gadgets that emit ultraviolet rays, they have played a part in fighting and solving criminal activities. However, with all the benefits, the ultraviolet rays have its disadvantages as well, including causing of skin cancers especially after a long time of exposure. Also, the UV rays may damage the eyes. Therefore, it is always advisable to protect the eyes using the appropriate gadgets whenever an individual is exposed to UV. Worth noting is that UV light is also believed to damage the immune system when an individual is overexposed to direct UV rays for a long time. Indeed, whenever the immune system of an individual is compromised, there are adverse health effects that follow.