Can exposing yourself to a light bulb cause damage to your skin and even set the stage for life-threatening melanoma?
The answer appears to be: quite possibly, if the light bulb in question is one of those new energy-efficient spiral-shaped compact fluorescent ones now being used by millions of households in keeping with a government-mandated phaseout of traditional incandescent bulbs.
Since the mass marketing of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) began a few years ago, both in the US and abroad, some people have complained of developing skin problems – including unsightly rashes – after making the switch. Experts in the field attributed such problems to the propensity of CFLs to give off excessive amounts of toxic light in the form ofUV radiation, which is emitted by the mercury vapors they contain, and which are especially apt to affect individuals suffering from skin sensitivities or ailments such as lupus.
While UV rays should be neutralized by a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb, the twisting of CFLs often causes that coating to crack and the UV radiation to escape. In fact, a “random sampling” conducted by by the British government , as reported by Canadian broadcast journalists last year, found that one in five of these bulbs could expose users to “unusual levels of UV light.”
But even more alarming findings came from a study performed in 2012 by a team of researchers from New York’s Stony Brook University on the potential impact of healthy human skin tissue being exposed to ultraviolet rays emitted from CFL bulbs, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology.
“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said the leader of the study, Professor Miriam Professor Rafailovich, Ph.D. “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles (found in personal care products normally used for UV absorption ) were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.” Rafailovich added that incandescent light of the same intensity had no effect on healthy skin cells, with or without the presence of TiO2.
In an article entitled, “A Surprising Melanoma Risk,” the online newsletter Complementary Prescriptions notes that “(t)he study found that the UV rays from the bulbs are so strong that they can burn skin cells—damaging skin in a way that may raise the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma.”
Fortunately, there is now another lighting option on the market that’s even more energy efficient than CFLs without posing a UV radiation hazard.