CFL Bulbs May Pose Risk to Skin

by Brian McGraw on July 23, 2012

in Blog

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Via Kenneth Green and The Daily Caller, comes some research which suggests that ultraviolet rays from compact fluorescent bulbs may pose a risk to healthy skin cells.

From the studies abstract:

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.

I’d like to echo Ken’s reaction and snark:

…there are many good reasons to remove the ban (pardon me, “unattainable performance standard that will serve as a de-facto ban”) on incandescent light bulbs.

The “one-study never proves anything” rule still holds, of course.

Perhaps this won’t end up being a huge deal. But Congress acted to implement this legislation before this information was available, and it would have been nice to know that the government is encouraging consumers to switch to a new type of light bulb that may or may not be bad for our skin.

Finally, I posted recently about a Mercatus paper which criticized energy efficiency standards implemented by various government agencies (or Congress). The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy responded to the paper by denying that these regulations restrict consumer choice:

False claim #2:  Efficiency standards restrict consumer choice

Refrigerators are the most regulated appliance in America, having been subject to no fewer than six rounds of improved state and federal efficiency requirements over more than 30 years.  Think about it for a moment. Do you have fewer choices in refrigerators than you did 10 years ago? For those who can remember, than 30 years ago? How about for clothes washers? Or for light bulbs?

For each of these products, consumer choices have increased even as standards have eliminated energy-inefficient models from the market. Refrigerators come with a wider array of configurations (the latest rage is French doors—GE just added a second shift at its Louisville, Kentucky plant to keep up with demand), ice and water dispenser options, built-in designs, and other features than have ever existed. Clothes washer buyers have an array of energy- and water-efficient front-loading and top-loading designs covering price points from $400 and up to choose from, many with features like steam cleaning unheard of a decade ago. For light bulbs, manufacturers report that the standards spurred them to introduce a whole new generation of energy-efficient incandescent bulbs so that consumers can now choose among energy-efficient incandescent, compact fluorescent, and newly-introduced LED options. Consumers have more choice than ever.

Two years ago, if I wanted to, I could have gone into a grocery store and purchased one of those old school incandescent bulbs. In a few years, if the new efficiency standard for light bulb remains the law of the land, I will no longer be able to do so. The number of new light bulbs invented in the interim is irrelevant to the fact that I can no longer go and purchase that old bulb. These policies restrict consumer choice, regardless of the fact that consumer choices are constantly expanding due to a growing economy (or due to a misguided policy that mandates efficiency improvements).

peter July 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

agree, see site link

Bryan July 24, 2012 at 4:18 am

Was very alarmed by this article you reference in THE DAILY CALLER. Unfortunatley (or maybe fortunately, since I have these bulbs throughout my house) it is a hoax. The article mentioned does not appear in the June edition of the magazine quoted (nor any other as far as I can find) and the quoted professor, while a real person, is a professor of plastics and not of photo biology, and she does not have an article in any edition of the magazine. Alarming stuff, but not true.

Brian McGraw July 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm


I linked to the study. It looks like the DC author got the month wrong, as it was in the July issue.

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