Suppliers offer buyers a refund after the government says that the ultraviolet light bulbs can damage skin and eyes People who bought ultraviolet-C lamps as a means of disinfecting their homes were yesterday urged by the government to stop using them because they could cause skin cancer. Consumers who bought the UV-C lamps - which were promoted as a means of killing germs amid the Sars outbreak - were told to return them to suppliers for a refund. The Department of Health said regular use of UV-C lamps could cause skin cancer, ageing of the skin and eye damage, while shorter contact could lead to skin burns and eye irritations. 'These lamps should not have been advertised for household use,' said Ho Mang-yee, principal medical and health officer at the Department of Health. The lamps are for industrial use, such as in hospitals, hotels and laboratories for disinfection purposes. About 1,100 of the lamps have been sold in the past month, according to the government. Most of them have been returned, but 258 are still in consumers' hands. The UV spectrum is divided into A, B and C - with the last having the shortest wavelength. Dr Ho said UV-C is the most harmful of ultraviolet lights. Major makers of UV-C products include Philips, General Electric and Osram Prosperity, a subsidiary of Siemens. About a month ago, UV-C light bulbs made by mainland companies hit the Hong Kong market following the Sars epidemic. Two local companies started advertising the products as a way to prevent Sars. A report by the South China Morning Post triggered an investigation by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, which regulates electrical products. One of the suppliers is Treasure Dream, which is the Hong Kong distributor of Bright Starlight and Electricity, a mainland light manufacturer. It has been selling the bulbs, which can be screwed onto household lamps, for $328 each. The company claimed that one 15-watt UV-C bulb can kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria in a 200 sq ft room for a whole day if left on for one hour. Those claims appeared in newspaper advertisements. The other company, Gold Joint Industrial, sells another version of the UV-C light bulbs with an attached electrical wire and plug for $188 each. Gold Joint also imported the product from a manufacturer on the mainland. Consumers who have bought the mainland-made UV-C light bulbs should contact Treasure Dream at 2186-6382 or Gold Joint Industrial at 2401-2032. Both suppliers have agreed to refund customers.