CFL Light Bulbs and UltraViolet UV Rays

The new compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL bulbs) may not be as safe as they were first reported to be. Governments have known for some time that there are individuals who are sensitive to the UV rays emitted by fluorescent tube and CFL lighting products.

It has now been acknowledged that these bulbs can pose a health risk to people with conditions such as Lupus and other autoimmune disease. I have a rare inflammatory illness known as Myositis and I fall into this category of sensitivity. Because the new bulbs emit UV rays those on medications which could make them more light sensitive can also be negatively impacted by having CFL lighting in their homes or workplace.

We were let in on the dirty little secret of CFLs containing mercury (which could pose a health hazard if these bulbs should accidentally break). New studies are finding that UV leakage from these bulbs may bring with them sensitivity issues as well as a higher risk of cancer as well. Children who are usually the most vulnerable to toxic stimuli are often the very individuals who are the closest to lamps set at desk or table level.

Now a new study by Dr. Miriam Rafailovich of Stony Brook N.Y. found that CFLs leach harmful ultraviolet rays and there is indeed an increase skin cancer risk from the use of compact fluorescent bulb use. The findings from this study are startling. This new indoor skin cancer risk is an issue which should concern each and every one of us.

The Stony Brook Compact Fluorescent Bulb Study: It was after Dr. Miriam Rafailovich read an Israeli article about a commune where the membership developed a much higher skin cancer rate after switching to the new CFL bulbs that she decided to investigate these bulbs a little closer.

The research team purchased a variety of compact fluorescent light bulbs from a number of locations in order to have a random sampling for the tests. Miriam Rafailovich a Professor of Materials Science and her research team conducted new studies into Ultraviolet radiation leakage, and possible cancer risks posed, from the use of the new compact fluorescent bulbs.

This research found that the phosphor coatings which cover the CFL bulbs have small cracks in it which then leach UVC and UVA rays. These rays mimic the suns rays and are strong enough to cause damage to healthy skin. See: European Skin Cancer Study.

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The studies also found that skin cells not only stopped growing when exposed to the compact fluorescent light bulbs but the skin cells also began to alter in their appearance. Thus indicating a risk of cancer from exposure to these indoor light rays. The skin cancer risk from compact fluorescent lighting includes the deadly form of melanoma skin cancer.

Especially disturbing is the absorption of indoor UVC rays. Ultraviolet light comes in UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. Most of the UV rays that we absorb out of doors come in the form of UVA and UVB so these are generally the ultraviolet rays that are of the highest concern to us.

UVC rays are generally not associated with an increased risk of cancer because these rays diffuse into the air around us. But now research shows that this is not the case when UVC rays are released indoors from CFL light bulbs.

The UVC ultraviolet rays released within a foot or two of compact fluorescent light bulbs are easily absorbed through the skin, alter human DNA, and pose a very serious health risk to people or animals who are exposed to them. CFL bulbs in table or desk lamps pose a considerable indoor skin cancer risk.

The question is: Are governments downplaying the true health risks of these bulbs? Governments are enforcing the use of CFL bulbs by banning the sale of the old incandescent light bulbs. But could these new regulations bring with them too great a health risk for the general public and especially for those most vulnerable to the affects of Ultraviolet rays?

What to do if you Break a CFL Bulb in Your Home


Skin cancer, breast cancer, as well as other cell damage can occur from exposure to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Individuals who suffer from immune based inflammatory illness can be more sensitive to UV rays making exposure to tube lighting and the CFL light bulbs difficult for them to tolerate. 

Are the new energy efficient light bulbs worth the health risks they bring with them? It is certainly a question that I ask of myself and people who I interact with. It breaks my heart to think of the potential hazards to children who are under them for any extended length of time. I just cannot convince myself that enough research was conducted on these bulbs before they were legislatively forced upon us.

How to Reduce the Risk: 

*Do not sit under reading lamps that contain the early CFL light bulbs.

*Enclose your bulbs in an additional glass enclosure to help minimize UV ray leakage.

*Try to minimize the amount of time you are exposed to compact fluorescent bulbs.

*Young children are more vulnerable to environmental stimuli so take extra care with their health.

*Write your government with your concerns on the regulation of compact fluorescent lighting. In Canada the use of incandescent light bulbs was banned beginning January 1st, 2014. They were phased out in the U.S. throughout 2012 and 2014 but there is still available a lower wattage incandescent bulb available to consumers.


It is recommended that you limit the time exposed to CFL lighting and also that you keep these bulbs at a safe distance from your skin. See: The Health Canada Report  or U.S. Food and Drug Administration for consumer information including targets for CFL bulb exposure.


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