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Keep your distance from CFLs

“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.”

So says Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and the Director of the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces at Stony Brook. Rafailovich and a team of Stony Brook University researchers looked into what happens when healthy human skin tissue gets exposed to ultraviolet rays from CFL bulbs. The team published their results in the June issue of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Stony Brook researchers collected CFL bulbs purchased from different locations, then 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.

The team took the same bulbs and studied the effects of exposure on healthy human skin tissue cells, including: fibroblasts, a type of cell found in connective tissue that produces collagen; and keratinocytes, an epidermal cell that produces keratin, the key structural material in the outer layer of human skin. They repeated the tests with incandescent bulbs of the same intensity and with the introduction of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles, which are found in personal care products normally used for UV absorption.

“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said Professor Rafailovich. “Skin cell damage was (worse) when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles 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.

The study can be found here:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-1097.2012.01192.x/full

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