Buyer beware: Products claiming to kill COVID-19 may be too good to be true

Buyer beware: Products claiming to kill COVID-19 may be too good to be true

ATLANTA — You may have seen the advertisements pop up on social media or TV for ultraviolet lights that claim to kill the coronavirus.

Channel 2 Action News has learned many of these products are not what they advertise.

UV light at certain intensity can kill germs and viruses, but there's no proof that many of the consumer products being sold claiming to kill COVID-19 actually work.

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Katrenia Hardin, of Alpharetta, told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray that her UV wands she bought online to kill the coronavirus turned out to just be colored LED lights.

“I bought two of these, and they’re both fake,” Hardin said, showing Gray the wands. “This is probably Christmas lights. Great for concerts, which we can’t go to, but nothing else.”

Channel 2 Action News bought several of the UV lights too after getting email pitches from companies and social media advertisements in our feeds touting the lights’ ability to disinfect surfaces and keep them COVID-19 free.

What we actually got did not inspire confidence.

We bought four different products that cost between $30 and $100 each on Amazon.

The products were clearly manufactured overseas. The translation in one of the products’ descriptions didn’t even translate correctly, saying to “enjoy a sunny taste day.” Another box promises that the light keeps people away from the virus and bacteria, “which can take people to thickness.”

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Georgia Tech and Emory biomedical engineering professor Philip Santangelo has been testing the effectiveness of real UV lights to fight COVID-19 in his lab.

“I would be very suspicious of that until it’s tested,” Santangelo said about the lights. “The effectiveness of UV light depends a lot on the duration of exposure and intensity of that exposure.”

High-powered UV lights from a company called Puro are being tested by New York City to clean subway cars and buses.

But Santangelo says you should be wary of the low-cost lights being sold online for personal use.

“It’s just like anything else. The details matter, and I would be skeptical of something that was $50 online on Amazon,” Santangelo told Gray.

He said unless the manufacturer can prove the product has been tested and is effective against the coronavirus, don’t trust it.

“Even a Lysol bottle tells you they’ve tested it against a bunch of virus,” Santangelo said.

It's not just UV lights that have issues.

Customers are having issues with products that claim to be hand sanitizers. We found a New Jersey teen who showed pictures of their hands with burns that were allegedly caused by applying bad hand sanitizer.

The owner of a 7-Eleven was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child by selling the product.

At Hope Springs Distillery in Lilburn, it has transitioned from making gin and vodka to hand sanitizers during the crisis.

Owner Betsey Dahlber said she is concerned by all the sanitizers she sees being sold that don't contain the proper ingredients to protect against COVID-19.

“It makes me sad. I know people are desperate, and I know it’s easy to buy something off the internet, but please be careful. This is your life we’re talking about,” Dahlber said.

Meanwhile, Hardin told Gray that she’s been determined to buy sanitizing equipment and personal protective equipment to help protect her niece, who is a nurse.

“You buy this. You believe it’s going to do what it says it’s going to do and trusting it. And it doesn’t do anything,” Hardin said.

The Federal Trade Commission goes after companies that falsely market products. And even before COVID-19, it was targeting companies marketing UV lights.

In 2015, the agency settled with two companies for more than $1 million for making claims that their devices killed germs and bacteria with no scientific evidence.

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