Dozens of first-graders suffer serious burns and eye damage after exposure to UV light for nine hours

  • A teacher at a primary school in Tianjin was said to have accidentally left a UV disinfection lamp on all day
  • Symptoms in the children taken to hospital included eye pain, bleeding, vomiting and burns to faces and necks
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 8:22pm

More than 40 first-graders at a school in the city of Tianjin, near Beijing, suffered serious burns and damage to their eyes, face and neck areas after they were exposed to ultraviolet light for nine hours, the news site Thepaper.cn reported on Thursday.

Tianjin authorities said the city’s education, hygiene and police departments had begun a joint investigation into the incident and were in talks with the parents. All affected children were sent to hospital for treatment.

The incident occurred at Dagang English Experimental Primary School on Monday, when a teacher forgot to switch off a UV disinfection lamp in the classroom. The light was on from early in the morning until another teacher discovered it had been left on by mistake at around 4.45pm.

News of the incident first broke on social media, with commenters claiming that four parents discovered that nine children in the class had suffered UV burns at 5pm that day. They then were said to have taken the children to see the school principal, who told them to seek hospital treatment.

Accounts claimed that children who were exposed to the damaging rays experienced symptoms including severe vomiting, intense eye pain and bleeding, as well as burns on their face and neck areas.

“When my child returned home, their eyelids and eyeballs were already very red,” one parent of an affected child told Pear Video.

“The school tried to shift away responsibility, the teacher who turned on the light wasn’t even involved. I heard that they were still teaching.”

Out of 48 students in the classroom, 36 received emergency medical treatment by that night.

The incident has left parents worried about the future health of their children.

“Long periods of exposure to UV light are extremely harmful and can cause illnesses in the future,” the social media user behind the original post told Thepaper.cn.

“No one can give an answer as to whether the children will experience other problems in the future.”

Photos of children lying in bed with thick bandages over their eyes, as well as a short clip of parents arguing with school staff, also circulated on social media after the incident.

An unnamed staff member at the school confirmed to local media that the event was an accident, and added that medical treatment costs would be covered under the children’s personal accident insurance.

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“Outside of accident insurance, the school have given us nothing, no official statement – they just told us a teacher forgot to turn off the light,” the unnamed parent told Pear Video.

Ultraviolet rays found in sunlight are responsible for sunburn and acceleration of skin ageing, while excessive exposure has been shown to cause skin cancer.

“I use a UV disinfection lamp at home, but I bought one with a time limit that automatically switches off after 30 minutes. I recommend that other schools use this kind of lamp, to avoid further accidents in the future,” read one top-rated comment on Weibo.

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“Nine hours, and not a single teacher teaching classes noticed?!” wrote another user.

In September, second-grade students at Xiangshui Experimental Primary School in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, were left exposed to UV rays from a disinfectant lamp for one day. Parents of those affected schoolchildren reported symptoms of blurred vision, skin peeling and nausea.

The Xiangshui County Education Bureau told local media at the time that medical experts invited to assess the symptoms attributed them to “dry” weather conditions.