CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs have become a popular alternative to incandescent light bulbs due to their energy savings.
However, a recent study performed a Stony Brook University in New York showed that UV emission from these bulbs could be harmful to healthy human skin based on in vitro testing.
Researchers from Stony Brook studied this hypothesis after reviewing a 2008 European (SCENIHR) report on light sensitivity that found that some CFLs emit UV radiation.
The concern in the SCENIHR study was that people exposed for prolonged periods of time in workplace settings to light bulbs in close proximity (less than 8 inches) could potentially develop skin and retinal damage.
In 2012, researchers from Stony Brook led by Miriam Rafailovich, Ph.D., Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and the Director of the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces at Stony Brook, conducted a similar investigation.
CFL bulbs were purchased from different counties in Long Island, New York. The amount of UV emissions were measured and the integrity of the phosphor coatings on each bulb were checked.
“Results revealed significant levels of UVC and UVA (types of light energy), which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all CFL bulbs studied,” according to Science daily.com.
The same bulbs were then sent to Stony Brook's Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC). This team took the CFL bulbs and studied the results of their exposure on healthy human skin cells in the lab. Tests were repeated using incandescent light bulbs.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles were also added to each group of skin cells and additional measurements were taken. Titanium dioxide is a common ingredient in sunscreen and has strong UV-absorbing capabilities that protect the skin from UV light.
"Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation," said Professor Rafailovich.