Don't Freak Out, But CFLs Might Not Be Great for Your Skin

Studies show CFLs emit some UV radiation, but claims of skin cancer you may have heard on Fox News are wildly overblown.

We're guessing you long ago swapped out those old incandescent light bulbs for power conserving compact florescent ones. The energy and overall cost savings are massive: CFLs burn 75 percent less energy and last 6 times as long.

New research out of Stony Brook University though raises some concerns about their impact on our skin—it seems CFLs emit ultraviolet radiation that damages human skin cells. So, while CFLs are certainly the green choice, users should take some precautions, says Dr. Miriam Rafailovich.

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.


Media Matters noted recently that "right wing media outlets" had seized upon this study to promote "cancerous lightbulb fearmongering," but they also acknowledged that simple measures can be taken to protect against the minimal risk.

So, if you're laboring long hours under a CFL powered desk lamp, it's wise to install double envelope CFL bulbs (the encapsulated kind), use a shade, or both.

Image (cc) Flickr user Paul Keller