Researchers from Stonybrook University have found after studying samples of store-bought Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFBs) that many of them emit high enough levels of UV radiation to cause skin damage, which when found with other sources has been linked to skin cancer. The CFBs, which are those pig-tailed bulbs that are replacing traditional light bulbs, have been heralded as the wave of the future because they take so much electricity to run. In this new research, the team describes in their paper published in Photochemistry and Photobiology, how they found that because of current lax manufacturing techniques commercially available CFBs tend to have minute cracks in their outer covering that allow UV radiation to escape. Popular Science notes that until now, few if any studies have been done testing the impact of CFB use in the home or workplace, which means long term exposure to light from the bulbs have not been studied. The Examiner says that unlike other commercially available products, the bulbs weren’t required to undergo extensive testing before being rolled out to stores because the federal government was so adamant about them replacing conventional light bulbs to save on electricity requirements nationwide.
In their paper, the researchers say that they studied bulbs bought from two different locations in the country and subjected them both to the same test, namely, inserting them into standard off-the-shelf lamps and then measuring what was emitted. They report that heightened levels of UV radiation were detected from nearly all of the bulbs tested and that the reason was because of very tiny cracks in the white coating used on the bulbs. Taking their test a step further, they then shined the lights directly on human skin cells that had been removed from patients during surgical procedures and found that the cells responded in the same way as they would were they to sit out in the sun too long, meaning, people could possibly get burned by the emissions if they sit under a bulb too long. Finally, they say, they applied chemicals similar to those found in sun-block products and found they worked just as well at protecting skin from damage by the bulbs as they did from the sun.
PopSci notes that the authors of the study report that they chose to study UV radiation levels emitted from CFBs after reading about a similar study done in Europe back in 2008, which was apparently ignored when conservationists in this country began pushing for legislation outlawing conventional bulbs and calling for them to be replaced by CFBs. They also note that the research team found that the bulbs could be made safe by simply putting them behind glass enclosures such as those commonly affixed to ceilings.