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Could Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Pose Skin Cancer Risk?
Date:8/3/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, August 3 (HealthDay News) -- As the United States bakes under the summer sun, dermatologists often warn of cancer risks posed by ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. But research now points to a new and ubiquitous indoor source of these harmful rays: eco-friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Scientists say they found widespread chipping or cracking in the phosphor surface coating of nearly all the compact fluorescent bulbs they examined, allowing UV rays to escape.

Most of the bulbs "have cracks in the phosphor coating, probably due to the fact that the coating is brittle and has trouble making the tight bends required to make these bulbs compact," explained study lead author Miriam Rafailovich, a professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y. "As a result, we observed, by eye, defects in nearly all the bulbs that we studied."

And, Rafailovich added that, "skin cells exposed to [compact fluorescent light] emissions showed the same damage as those exposed to UV light" when placed in close range (meaning less than one foot) to a CFL bulb.

The study is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and is published in a recent issue of the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

As Americans grow more concerned about environmental and energy issues, millions have made the switch from the old incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents. The U.S. National Institutes of Health notes that the newer technology uses roughly 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

Each compact fluorescent bulb has a phosphor coating applied to its narrow glass tubing. The coating is designed to both enhance the bulb's luminescence capacity while at the same time absorbing UV radiation that would otherwise be emitted.

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