Compact fluorescent bulbs may contribute to skin cancer

A new study from Stony Brook University, published in the journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, revealed “significant levels of UVC and UVA, which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all CFL bulbs studied.” UVC and UVA can cause skin cancers.

The paper abstract reads:

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can provide the same amount of lumens as incandescent light bulbs, using one quarter of the energy. Recently, CFL exposure was found to exacerbate existing skin conditions; however, the effects of CFL exposure on healthy skin tissue have not been thoroughly investigated. In this study, we studied the effects of exposure to CFL illumination on healthy human skin tissue cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Cells exposed to CFLs exhibited a decrease in the proliferation rate, a significant increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, and a decrease in their ability to contract collagen. Measurements of UV emissions from these bulbs found significant levels of UVC and UVA (mercury [Hg] emission lines), which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all bulbs studied. The response of the cells to the CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation, which was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs), normally used for UV absorption, were added prior to exposure. No effect on cells, with or without TiO2 NPs, was observed when they were exposed to incandescent light of the same intensity.

See the press release here.

Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, the lead researcher said, “Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation.” She also noted, “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 (titanium dioxide) nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.” Titanium dioxide is frequently used in sun blocker creams and in cosmetics.

Dr. Rafailovich added, “Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them [CFLs] at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.”

Reader note: I did not have access to the full paper, so I am unable to assess their methodology.

See also:

How Many Haz-Mat Suits Do You Need to Change a Lightbulb?

The EPA procedures you must follow if you break a compact fluorescent light bulb

Would you pay $50 for a light bulb?