CFL Bulbs Contain Harmful Chemicals, Damage Your Skin

With the government moving to ban incandescent light bulbsin favor energy-saving compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, it’s important to remember what this means for your health.

A German Study that found that compact fluorescent lights emit cancer-causing chemicals such as phenol, naphthalene, and styrene when switched on. Inspired by these findings, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have released a study on the effects that UV radiation from CFL bulbs can have on human skin cells.

Researchers summarized their findings, “… [we] measured the amount of UV emissions and the integrity of each bulb’s phosphor coatings. Results revealed significant levels of UVC and UVA, which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all CFL bulbs studied”

Abundant research has shown that UVA radiation can penetrate to the deepest levels of skin tissue. It is known to contribute greatly to skin wrinkling, and according to a US-Australian study, UVA radiation causes the greatest amount of damage to skin cells where most skin cancers start. These cells are called keratinocytes, and they are the same cells the researchers at Stony Brook exposed to radiation from CFL bulbs.

So who is responsible for the radiation given off by these energy efficient bulbs? Well, in 2006 and 2007 the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) measured base levels of radiation given off by CFLs. ACGIH is a completely NON-governmental member-based organization that is comprised of leading “occupational hygiene professionals.”

These levels were then reviewed by the IESNA, another member based organization comprised of lighting industry manufacturers and employers. Their president Chip Israel is the owner of Lighting Design Alliance, one of the worlds leading lighting design firms with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Fort Collins, and Dubai.

The IESNA then created the currently used RP 27, which sets the standards for acceptable levels of radiation emissions from all light sources. If a CFL bulb is found to exceed these levels, the maker of the bulb is required to place a warning on the package. There is no accountability however, as manufacturers are expected to self-police.

This is particularly troubling in light of new laws emerging all over the planet phasing out traditional and even halogen incandescent bulbs in favor of CFLs. The most noteworthy being a ban adopted by the European Union around September of 2012.

Some states are adopting these same types of regulation, albeit more slowly. For example, California no longer allows residents to purchase traditional incandescent bulbs – opting instead for halogen incandescent bulbs that use about 25% less energy – but encourages people to use CFLs instead regardless.

To protect your skin from being harmed by these bulbs, researchers recommend that you stay at least two feet away from them at all times, as radiation levels drop with distance. Additionally, the more filters between a person and the bulb – such as a glass cover or shade – the less radiation will reach your skin.

Mercury-Packed CFL Bulbs Now Found to Fry Your Skin

Activist Post
by Mike Barrett

Individuals are drawn to compact fluorescent bulbs due to their environmentally-friendly label, but anyone who has really looked into these incandescent alternatives knows of the numerous health and environmental dangers of CFL bulbs.

A recent study sheds light on just one such concern associated with the ‘green’ CFL bulbs, showing how they are capable of actually frying your skin with UVA radiation.

Following a study in Europe examining the effects of CFL bulbs on the skin, researchers from Stony Brook University in New York conducted a similar study to examine the bulbs’ impact on human skin cells. For the study, the researchers purchased CFL bulb from various locations, and then measured the amount of UV radiation emissions. What they found in every single one of the bulbs studied was “significant levels of UVC and UVA” which was a result of cracks that were present in the coating on the bulbs.

After studying the effects of these emissions on human skin cells, they discovered that healthy skin cells experienced the same damage you would find with ultraviolet radiation.

Similar tests were also conducted using incandescent light bulbs of the same intensity along with the implementation of UV-absorbing Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, which are found within many personal care products.

While the incandescent light bulbs had no negative effect on healthy skin cells, the researchers couldn’t say the same for CFL bulbs. Professor Rafailovich recounts:

Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation…Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.


Despite their large energy savings, consumers should be careful when using compact fluorescent light bulbs…Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.

This, of course, isn’t the only issue with compact fluorescent bulbs. In addition to having a potential negative impact on your skin, these bulbs emit toxic chemicals. In fact, only months after it was found that energy saving fluorescent bulbs release carcinogenic chemicals into the air, a new study has found that these harmful chemicals are continually released from the bulbs over a period of weeks to months.

In addition to releasing these cancer-causing chemicals, which are far beyond the “safe” level set by the EPA, these bulbs also release levels of mercury which also exceed the “safe” levels for humans.