Nifty Neat Fluorescent Bulbs Cause Ultraviolet Skin Damage

Photo: Sun Ladder (CC)

From the office of unintended consequences:

A recent scientific report highlighted at Popular Science indicates that those energy-saving fluorescent bulbs may not be all they’re – ahem – cracked up to be. The study, led by a team at Stony Brook, revealed that microscopic fissures in the bulbs can expose skin to harmful UV rays, resulting in potential cellular damage.

Is it anything to worry about? Probably not, but it’s a reminder that there is always a potentially hazardous side to any technological innovation, some of which aren’t apparent until its too late.

I’m reminded of the “radium girls” who worked the lines painting clock dials with the radioactive substance at the Waterbury Clock Factory in Ottawa, IL. They’d lick their brushes to keep the tips pointed between clocks, and some of them would paint it on their buttons for fun. After all, radium was harmless, right? That was the prevailing wisdom, and it remained so until the women began to die. In all, 40 of them died as a result of their work with the glowing substance.

Read the full article at Popular Science.



17 Comments on "Nifty Neat Fluorescent Bulbs Cause Ultraviolet Skin Damage"

  1. More importantly, they’ve been releasing Phosphorus and Mercury Vapor into the environment for over 80 years now.

    • I think they’re talking about the CFL bulbs, which are more recent than that.

      But you’re right.

      They present a source of mercury contamination.

      I haven’t done any research into the phosphorous emissions or the dangers thereof.

      Even though I occasionally use these bulbs, I don’t really like them.

      First, I just don’t like the light they emit. I prefer the warmer yellower glow of the incandescent bulb. “Full-Spectrum” incandescent being my favorite.

      Beyond just personal preferences, CFL placement is very particular. Generally they cannot be placed in an inverted postion (with the screw base up and the emitting bulb down) because they’ll overheat and burn out, sometimes catching fire. Further, they can’t be placed where they don’t have good airflow, even when placed in the “correct” orientation because they’ll still burn out and or catch on fire.

      Also, part of me just resents the fact that CFL bulbs were “pushed” on me with such fervor and disregard for the practicalities or downsides.

      • Peter Dublin | Jul 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm |

        The pushed replacement LED bulbs have a lot of issues too…


        All lighting has advantages, none should be banned,
        particularly when the overall savings for society aren’t there anyway, as referenced

  2. UV rays are good for you, they help you produce melanin

    • and Melanoma. 

      • and vitamin D (hell the tiny amt of UV coming from these bulbs might even be considered healthy). Heleophobia has become a bit of a problem really.

        And melanoma is caused by UV overdose, this of course is mitigated by… melanin. Its also mitigated by not letting yourself bake in the sun for hours especially when you have milk-white skin.

        • You’re right about the fear of the Sun.

          People don’t get enough sun on regular basis and then when they do it’s an overdose (all day at the beach or King’s Island).

          Certain skin conditions (eczema and psoriasis for example) can be relieved by sun exposure.

          Of course people are frequently running around with vitamin D deficiencies that can be remedied by sun exposure, too.

          I will admit that here are certain people who shouldn’t get any more sun than absolutely necessary, though. Very fair skinned people, such as certain types of redheads, should be very careful.

          If you go take a look at a photo of Heather Carolin when she was young, versus a recent one you’ll see the kind of damage that the sun can do to certain skin types. She’s still gorgeous but the sun has flat tore her face up.

    • yes but there are different UV rays!

      the study abstract mentions the harmful  UVC and UVA problemsUVB seems main vit D  generator
      About Uv rays..   

  3. Rock lobster | Jul 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm |

    On the subject of vitamin d this is an amazing (short) lecture about whats being called Heliophobia. I heard if your vitamin d levels are already good sunburn happens less not just because of melanin.

  4. Radium girls…an interesting aside!

    Good concept this website that you don’t act partisan

    The CFLs probably have their use, but it is ironic that to be safe they have to have a capsule (the pear shaped ones) making them even dimmer,and they are supposed to be left on which hardly saves energy, while turning them on-off cuts lifespan…

  5. by the way,  on the Disinformation – Lighting issue,
     there is a lot of energy-saving deception used to justify light bulb regulations
    For example, effectively the same coal is burned at night whatever light bulb you use: Coal plants are slow loading steady electricity deliverers, calibrated for higher day use.(   the deception rundown )

  6. The ‘dead giveaway’ that theses bulbs aren’t safe was the fact that some buildings have replaced the other bulbs with these new neat fluorescent bulbs free of charge and courtesy of a so-called gov’t green initiative (how sweet, just like ‘free flu shots/vaccinations’, courtesy of gov’t concern for your well being)!

    ‘Ezekiel 25:17′ all day folks! Protect ya neck (and our sisters’ and brothers’ necks as well)!

  7. Fist of goodness | Jul 21, 2012 at 3:41 am |

    LED BULBS 7 BUCKS AT HOME DEPOT AND OTHER HOME IMPROVEMENT STORES. they take forever to burn out use a lot less power and only give you butt cancer if you sit on them, which i dont recommend doing.

  8. sing with me | Jul 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

    these bulbs are super cheap and the motto for me is “buy cheap buy twice” I just changed back to normal bulbs and will be upgrading to LED one by one, since LEDs are a little more expensive but last a very long time.

  9. Peter Dublin | Jul 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm |

    If anyone still interested (!)
     More about this and previous CFL studies, UV radiation explained, and how today’s pushed LED bulbs also have light quality issues, comparing the light spectrum output diagrams  of incandescents, CFLs ,LEDs

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