Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: A New Cancer Risk In Your Home

Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs maybe sounds like a good idea to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), but when you start to research about the CFL bulbs, you’d see why you should think twice before purchasing one.

Namely, CFL bulbs contain mercury, and we all know how much mercury can be dangerous. According to a recent study, CFL bulbs also emit high levels of ultraviolet radiation—specifically, UVC and UVA rays.

UV rays are strong enough to actually burn skin and skin cells. Experts say that this can lead to skin cancer, and not just any type of cancer, but the deadliest one – melanoma.

Every light bulb that has been tested so far, showed that the protective phosphor coating of the light bulb was cracked, allowing dangerous UV rays to escape. When healthy skin cells are exposed under CFLs, their proliferation rate is decreased, the production of reactive oxygen species is increased, and the ability to contract collagen is also decreased.

Moreover, if the light bulb falls down and breaks, you’ll have mercury all over the place. According to the measurement done by the Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation, the release of mercury vapor from broken bulbs (near the bulb) is up to 800 mcg/m3, which is eight times the average eight-hour occupational exposure limit allowed by OSHA (100 mcg/m3), and the recommended limit for children is a mere 0.2 mcg/m3! So, if a child is exposed to a broken CFL bulb, it will receive eight thousand times the recommended amount of mercury vapor!

Furthermore, a broken 13-watt CFL bulb will only have released 30% of its mercury a full four days after it is broken, meaning that picking up the shards with bare hands is a terrible idea, especially if you leave them in poorly ventilated room while trying to find a better solution of their disposal.

Since there’s no good method of getting rid of broken CFLs, a team of researchers are testing a cloth made with a nanomaterial (nanoselim) that can capture mercury emissions for proper disposal, but until this product is available in store, stay away from CFLs. Plus, how will we dispose of the clean-up cloth?

Yet, it is claimed by General Electric that CFL bulbs are safe and don’t emit a hazardous amount of UV radiation, but that doesn’t change the fact that all compact fluorescent lights bulbs contain mercury vapor and once.

Even though, theoretically, the layer of phosphor that coats the bulbs absorbs the UV rays, the signature twisted spiral shape makes these bulbs more prone to cracks in the phosphor, which dramatically increases UV/mercury exposure.

But, there’s more. According to a discovery made by German scientists, several different chemicals and toxins were released when CFLs are turned on, including naphthalene (which has been linked to cancer in animals) and styrene (which has been declared “a likely human carcinogen”). A sort of electrical smog develops around these lamps, which could be dangerous.

While it is great that the government tries to keep the environment safe, this kind of omission shouldn’t be allowed.

What’s worse, costumers won’t be able to buy incandescent lights as they will no longer be available in stores, because Section 321 of EISA mandates higher efficiency standards for general service lamps.

Even the United Nations has acknowledged the problem of mercury in CFL bulbs, and has instated a ban on certain types of CFLs.

Luckily, there are other energy-efficient bulbs, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are mercury-free.


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