Nothing new here for those of you who follow similar sites, just posting this to have it included on this site too.
UV radiation confirmed
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.
(Note how not even a scientific study about light can now be published without the mandatory mention of how much CFLs ‘save’! What do savings have to do with health issues?) Anyway, Kevan comments:
Double envelope CFLs do reduce UV emissions considerably and should be used in any situation where lamps are at all close to people like task lighting, table lamps and bedside lights, particularly for the very young and very old whose skin tends to be more sensitive.
Which are less efficient and durable than naked CLF tubes. I’d recommend a frosted incandescent bulb for those tasks instead, if you have any hoarded. Or try a halogen PAR floodlight if directional lamps are suitable for the luminaire (light fitting). Or a warmwhite LED of highest quality if you can afford it.
Update Jan 2013:
UV leakage from CFLs confirmed again
Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells.
“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a Professor of Dermatology.
Exposure to the bulbs could lead to premature aging and skin cancer, according to doctors.
“It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest form, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung.
In every bulb that researchers tested they found that the protective coating around the light creating ‘phosphor’ was cracked, allowing dangerous ultraviolet rays to escape.
Homeowners expressed concern over the effect that the bulbs could have on children.
“That’s very unfortunate because the kids are getting exposed to so many different things at a younger age,” said Vicky Cobb.
Last year The Telegraph reported on cancer causing chemicals in CFLs.
Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin’s Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”
The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year.
But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene.
(Click on each word for Wikipedia info on health effects.)
“Andreas Kirchner, of the Federation of German Engineers, said: “Electrical smog develops around these lamps. I, therefore, use them only very economically. They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head.
Electro-smog is a different issue altogether, but good advice anyway.
British experts insisted that more research was needed and urged consumers not to panic.
Dr Michelle Bloor, senior lecturer in Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, told the Daily Express: “Further independent studies would need to be undertaken to back up the presented German research.”
The Department for the Environment insists the bulbs are safe, despite the fact that they contain small amounts of mercury which would leak out if the glass was broken.
Advice on its website states: “Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public.
“Although they contain mercury, limited at 5mg per lamp, it cannot escape from a lamp that is intact.
“In any case, the very small amount contained in an energy efficient bulb is unlikely to cause harm even if the lamp should be broken.”
To my knowledge, no such independent studies have been made, and the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) still has no cautionary warnings on their website CFL page (last updated 29 October 2009). And the issue was not about mercury but about phenol, naphtalene and styrene.
For more CFL risks, see New Electric Politics