Skip to comments.Can Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs Damage Skin? (You bet!)
Posted on 08/08/2012 1:48:19 PM PDT by NYer
SKIN RISK: A new study finds that damaged compact fluorescent lightbulbs can emit harmful ultraviolet light capable of damaging skin cells.
The curlicue compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) oft touted as an Earth-friendly alternative to standard incandescent bulbs may cause skin damage, according to a new study by researchers at Stony Brook University.
The bulbs are already known to pose hazards from using mercury, a toxic element, though in very small quantities, as lighting manufacturers are quick to point out. Regulations in parts of the United States and in the European Union limit mercury to 3.5 milligrams per bulb, with the limit dropping to 2.5 mg next year.
Now researchers have found that ultraviolet radiation seeping through CFLs may damage skin cells. Miriam Rafailovich, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stony Brook, led the research after reading an article in an Israeli newspaper that reported a spike in skin cancer on a communal farm when residents switched to fluorescent bulbs.
"In the past two years some disturbing reports have surfaced mostly in the European Union literature, which indicate that exposure to CFL bulbs might be responsible for exacerbating certain skin conditions, such as photodermatoses and skin cancer in humans," says the paper, published last month in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.
The issue comes from how CFLs are designed. Fluorescent lamps, large and compact, work by using electricity to excite mercury vapor inside the bulb. The excited vapor then emits invisible ultraviolet light that is absorbed by the bulb's phosphor coating. In turn, the coating re-emits the energy as visible light.
But researchers found UV light leaks more from CFLs compared to standard fluorescent tubes because the small diameter of the glass coupled with its twists and turns creates more spaces where the phosphor coating chips away, letting more UV light escape.
Past studies indicated that UV emissions from CFLs could harm previously damaged tissue and worsen chronic skin conditions, but researchers were curious about what these lamps do to healthy skin. To find out, the scientists studied two types of skin cells: keratinocytes, which make up 95 percent of the outermost layer of skin, and dermal fibroblasts, which form the connective tissue underneath.
Using CFL bulbs from different manufacturers purchased from retailers on Long Island, the team exposed cultured skin cells in a petri dish to the bulbs mounted in a desk lamp from different distances for varying periods. The team measured how much UV light was emitted and then assessed how the cells responded.
"All of them had some [UV emissions], but some were a lot worse than others," Rafailovich said of the bulbs. She noted that colored fluorescent party bulbs had lower UV emissions because the flexible color coating helped protect the phosphor layer.
Avoid close contact, researchers say
UV light comes in three varieties: UVA, UVB and UVC. The researchers tested the bulbs for UVA and UVC emissions. In skin cells, UVA creates reactive oxygen, which can damage their inner workings, and penetrates further into skin. Outdoors, people are typically exposed to UVA and UVB.
UVC, on the other hand, is usually scattered away by air, so we aren't usually exposed to it in sunlight. However, close to its source, like a CFL, UVC damages DNA.
"We saw significant amounts of UVC [from CFLs], which is not what you see in the atmosphere," said Rafailovich.
Under CFLs, the experiments showed cells stopped growing and changed shape. Dermal fibroblasts suffered worse than keratinocytes, since they are usually not exposed to light. This indicates these bulbs can damage skin in several layers.
Rafailovich explained that at close range, around a foot or so, CFL exposure is "the equivalent of sunbathing at the equator." This may not be cause for alarm for those who have CFLs mounted in ceiling fixtures, but it should be a concern with desk or table lamps. The researchers recommend avoiding CFLs at close range and placing them behind glass barriers or enclosures.
However, there are alternatives in energy-efficient lighting now that LEDs are dropping in price and manufacturers are making more efficient versions of incandescents.
"LED and incandescent light bulbs have no emission in UV range; therefore, they do not pose any risk," said Tatsiana Mironava, one of the report's co-authors and adjunct faculty in the Department of Chemical and Molecular Engineering at Stony Brook, in an email.
Fluorescent bulbs often use less than a quarter of the energy of comparable filament bulbs, making them appealing to consumers who want to lower their energy bills. Though the bulbs have been around since the 1940s, recent price drops, government incentives and legislation phasing out sales of old inefficient lighting have helped CFLs illuminate many more homes and businesses.
The U.S. Department of Energy has strongly advocated CFL use under its Energy Star program, spending $252 million in 2010 to increase CFL adoption.
Another "green energy" bullet for the unsuspecting American.
So it’s doubly good for the planet! Environmentally friendly and human-killing, getting rid of all us parasitic vermin. Cool!
This is a perfect example of “Good enough for government work”
Take a simple, inexpensive product that works (light bulb), and replace it with a complex, expensive product that is unsafe and ruins the environment (contains toxic mercury) it is supposed to be saving...
WAIT UNTIL THEY DO THE SAME FOR HEALTH CARE!!!
Good thing I just got another five 4 pks of 100 watt incandescent bulbs.
I am never that close to a lamp, especially if it’s without a shade. UVB does not go through glass or plastic well, though UVA does so better.
This is a typical hysterical fear report. Not that I use Gorebulbs, I’m mostly using LED and some incan these days.
Keep your laws off my light bulbs!
I have enough 60w, 75w & 100w bulbs stockpiled to last 20yrs. Screw the greenie crap.
Nothing about these bulbs is good for the environment.
They are loaded with mercury. Just wait will we have a few million pounds of this crap in our land fills seeping mercury into the water table.
Environmentalists don’t give a rats ass about the Earth.
If this product had been foisted on the American public by a private company, the liberals would be hanging the manufacturers in the town square. And NOBODY is pointing this out!!!
The sky is falling.
If you or a loved one contracted skin cancer while using Compact Fluorescent light bulbs, You may be entitled to compensation!
Contact the firm of ....
Lawyers passing laws for lawyers...
Let’s hope your supply is better than my supply. I bought several boxes and most fail within 6 month. I’ve got bulbs manufactured more than 10 years ago still burning bright but if I need to replace it with a new one, it usually fails in a few months. I’ve tried several manufacturers but get similar results.
I wonder at times if this isn’t planned obsolescence. We buy all the old style bulbs we can and they manufacture them with far less reliability. Sooner or later everyone is using CFLs anyway because our supply of old bulbs was designed to fail prematurely.
Love it!!! ROFL!!
the reason why so many government programs are worthless is that the government refuses to be guided by the principles of systems
1) the fundamental theorem: new systems generate new problems
2) the generalized uncertainty principle: complicated systems produce unexpected results
3) the total behavior of complicated systems cannot be predicted
4) complicated systems produced by expanding the dimensions of a simpler system does not behave like the simpler system
5) the mode of failure of a complicated system cannot ordinarily be predicted from its structure
6) if a simple system is working, don't change it
7) complicated systems tend to produce complicated responses (not solutions) to problems
The entire “Global Warming/Climate Change/Greenhouse Gas” nonsense is proving why Congress should stick to its enumerated powers and stay out da science fiction!
To date, virtually EVERY single “remedy” someone has created to offset or correct something related to the GW hoax/fraud/(insert your own term here) has proven to be worse than the so-called cause.
Now, we are forced, by Congressional decree that killed off the incandescent manufacturing industry in the US, to purchase the CFLs that are more hazardous than the incandescents. While incandescents are an old technology that waste a lot of energy, at least there is little to no fear of them killing or harming either people or the environment!! Unforntuantely, the enviro-nazis can’t say the same about their dangerous “replacements”.
CFLs, bio-fuels, ethanol have proven to be worse (in a variety of ways) than the technologies they are replacing. Meanwhile, giant scientific “brains” like algore are pushing these dangerous technologies based on little more than “chicken-little” science!!
And, the Dems claim that it is Republicans who don’t care about people or the environment!!
I wonder what those bulbs do to delicate retina of the eye?
I try to conserve my incandescent stash by using them in areas I spend most of my time. For example, use CFL’s in exterior lights and some recessed hallway lights. I also use CFL or LED bulbs in items on my generator to conserve fuel. Besides that, I use incandescent bulbs in all table lamps, bathroom fixtures, etc. I just ordered some LED bulbs to try.
I highly doubt Algore only uses CFL’s in his mansions. I bet in the private areas he uses incandescent bulbs.
I had the same trouble as you, bulbs bought at Home Depot going out in a very short time prompted me to write things down.
I’ve bought some 100 watts and others over ebay, and I’m very pleased.
Brass bases, sorry, can’t remember who the sellor was, but they were not expensive. I keep records, not elaborate, just a paper with notes of when I replace what.
I have a CFL in on of the bathroom lights. I love how the lamp is dim when I turn it on then gradually gets brighter. When I go to the bath room at night or first thing in the morning it really saves the eye pain of an instantly bright lite.
However, skin cancer in humans is quite different than discoloration of plastic. My wife is currently battling cancer, after spending decades in windowless office environments with fluorescent lighting. Cause and effect unknown, but why take risks by using CFL bulbs?
Fascinating! My parents had one of the first IBM personal computers. It came with 3 boxes of software - DOS, a word processor and a spreadsheet. I taught elementary school students on Apple IIE equipment and personally acquired a Mac. My last one is still operational but parked in a closet. I love the Macs!
The UVA penetrates the surface of the plastic and causes the color change.
I've often wondered what caused those exteriors to yellow. Perhaps that is one reason why some manufacturers switched to black housings.
My wife is currently battling cancer, after spending decades in windowless office environments with fluorescent lighting.
Like your wife, I spent decades working on VDTs in windowless offices. Of course, at the time, no one ever considered the potential impact of that "new" technology. I will keep your wife in my daily prayers.
Thank you for a most illuminating post.
Ya think!? Like all lefties, algore follows the "Do as I say, not as I do" rule. It also goes like this - "Incandescents for me, but not for thee!".
I said cause and effect unknown. She was in charge of a data center a couple stories down underground in a skyscraper, having risen through the ranks over several decades, but still installed and worked on equipment. Not only lots of fluorescent lighting, but lots of EMF energy from thousands of devices, and then there was the air conditioning atmosphere. No other history of cancer in her family, she always ate healthy and excercised daily. Has several different types of cancer, and she believes that working environment contributed to the causes. Had surguries, and regular chemo is keeping it under control. Lots of unknowns with side effects from new technology.
There are lots of hobbyists like me who still play with the old machines. I still have and use my first Apple II made in 1977, although I upgraded it to use Compact Flash cards and USB. Thousands of floppy disk titles on a single Compact Flash card make it easy to use. My wife used that early machine to learn about computing, and it enabled her to switch from being a typist to getting into data processing. I still have an early 1980s PC with DOS 1.1 but don't use it. Wife tolerates my crazy hobby. BTW, early VDTs were notorious for radiation, best to use modern monitors.
What happens when a CFL house is destroyed by fire or some other disaster. Do homeowners get charged for cleanup?
Not surprised ... the VDT's predate the personal computer, so I am really dating myself. At that time, I worked at the North American HQ of Air France in Manhattan. The VDT's were networked via transatlantic cable to our mainframes in Valbonne, France. I had an opportunity to visit their IBM facility in 1984. The highlight of the tour was a peak at their UPS room, packed, floor to ceiling, with batteries. Technologically, we have come a long way since then.
Back in NY, we attempted to equip our sales reps with more efficient, state of the art equipment. At the time, that translated into the first generation of pc - the Apple Lisa.
Yes, I actually attended a presentation given on the Lisa. Since there was no canned software at that time, the presenter used a program entitled "The Lemonade Stand" to demonstrate how a personal computer could be employed to improve productivity. He distributed custom made coloring books to us that used comic characters to instruct us in the new terminology. The one that stands out was a coloring page featuring Dracula taking a "byte" out of someone. Our homework assignment was to color in the pages. Wish I had saved that book!
Yes, you’ve been around! Can’t imagine a room full of UPS devices. I hated maintaining them and their serial diagnostics in the data centers I worked at. Used to spend spare time writing command lists to remotely take over other worker’s VDTs and drive them nuts, did that for fun. I have a Lisa in my collection. Seems like an expensive waste using it for a lemonade stand program! One of Apple’s early failures, although ahead of its time. We were there; now I feel like my dad talking about his Model Ts when he was young.
Yes ... but like any proud papa, we can take pride no only in having witnessed the birth of personal computing but having been a part of it as well. One of my favorite programs on this topic, remains.
Enjoy the history lesson that we wrote :-)