Energy-efficient light bulbs may harm skin

August 8, 2012

Compact fluorescent light bulbs may be beneficial for the environment, but they could harm human skin, researchers warn.

Stony Brook, N.Y. - Compact fluorescent light bulbs may be beneficial for the environment, but they could harm human skin, researchers warn.

A research team from Stony Brook University studied the potential impact of ultraviolet-ray emitting compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs on healthy in vitro human skin tissue, Futurity.org reports. Investigators bought CFL bulbs from various locations around New York and measured the amount of UV emissions and the integrity of each bulb’s phosphor coatings. Significant levels of UVC and UVA, which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, was present in all the CFL bulbs studied, Futurity.org reports.

Researchers also examined the effects of exposure on healthy human skin tissue cells, including fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Tests were repeated with incandescent light bulbs of the same intensity and with the introduction of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, which are found in personal care products normally used for UV absorption.

Investigators found the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted by the CFL bulbs was consistent with damage from UV radiation. Incandescent light of the same intensity had no effect on healthy skin cells, with or without the presence of TiO2, according to the study.

Study investigators suggested avoiding using CFL bulbs at close distances and, when possible, to cover the bulbs with an additional glass covering.

The study, published in Photochemistry and Photobiology, was funded by the National Science Foundation and was a collaboration of Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science.

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