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UV Menace May Lurk In Light Bulbs—No Joke

July 19, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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How many light bulbs does it take to damage your skin? Just one, if it’s a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), according to researchers from Stony Brook University in New York.

I know this is the second straight post featuring Stony Brook, but alerting you to the menace of those sinisterly twisting bulbs just couldn’t wait.

Stony Brook researchers bought ordinary CFLs from several locations on New York’s Long Island. Every one of them emitted significant levels of ultraviolet radiation—both UVC and UVA. The radiation appeared to emanate from cracks in the phosphor coatings.

Miriam Rafailovich, PhD, led the research. She said:

Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation.

Dr. Rafailovich was quoted in a Stony Brook news release. She is a professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces at Stony Brook. She is senior author of a study about the CFL research published online June 23 in Photochemistry and Photobiology.

She and her team tested the effects of light from both CFLs and conventional incandescent light bulbs on human skin tissue (in vitro). They also tested the effects of light from both types of bulbs on skin that had been given low doses of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, found in most sunscreens and sunblocks.

The CFL bulbs’ UV damage to skin cells got worse when the titanium dioxide was applied. Incandescent light of the same intensity had no affect on skin cells, whether or not titanium dioxide was present.

Does light from CFLs have the same effect on actual skin that it does on skin tissue in a lab? We don’t know yet. However, Dr. Rafailovich said:

Despite their large energy savings, consumers should be careful when using compact fluorescent light bulbs. Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.

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