Energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs) light bulbs have been welcomed by homeowners, renters and businesses as a means to save money and energy. However, in a study published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology, it appears that researchers from Stony Brook University have found a dark side to the energy-efficient bulbs. It appears that the light bulbs may emit alarmingly high levels of ultraviolet radiation, increasing users' risk of skin cancer.
The study was conducted by researchers from Stony Brook University in New York. First they measured the amount of UV emissions and the bulbs' phosphor coating, which are supposed to contain the UV radiation. They also compared the effect of CFL light bulbs on human skin cells with the old-fashioned incandescent variety. The researchers found that in each light bulb they studied the phosphor was cracked, emitting radiation. The human skin cells were more damaged when exposed to CFL light bulb; skin cells incurred almost damage when subjected to the light of incandescent light bulbs, the researchers said in a statement.
"The results were that you could actually initiate cell death," Marcia Simon, one of the study authors, said to CBS.
"It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest for, and that's melanoma," Rebecca Tung, a doctor unaffiliated with the study, added. The bulbs could also lead to premature aging.
CFL bulbs may contain mercury, which has been linked to health problems like nerve damage and birth defects, according to Live Science.
The finding could cause alarm for some consumers as the federal government phases out incandescent ones for CFL ones, making it more difficult to find the old-fashioned kind. However, energy-saving LED bulbs may prove to be a bright solution for consumers.
In response to the study, the National Electric Manufacturers Association concedes in a statement that CFL light bulbs emit a small amount of radiation, but says that all light bulbs do. "Based on current knowledge, the levels of UV radiation emitted by CFLs are acceptably low and only under unusual conditions will one be exposed to levels above those set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)," Dr. David Sliney, the chairma of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, said in the organization's statement.
The organization also said that CFL bulbs should be able to be used at the same distance as incandescent bulbs, with the exception of people with certain medical conditions, like lupus, or light sensitivities.