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Ultra-violet health concerns over CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights).

Posted by TheGreen on 01/07 at 02:35 PM
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We caught wind that there are new potential health issues with CFL's. This time, it is the potential Ultra Violet light that is emitted from CFLs. Although, all CFL's emit this wave length of light, some emit it at higher amounts than others.

GE's website has this to say:

Do light bulbs (such as compact fluorescent bulbs) give off hazardous amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light?

Regular fluorescent light bulbs used in your home and office do not produce a hazardous amount of ultraviolet light (UV). Most light sources, including fluorescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV, but the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight. (Ultraviolet light rays are the light wavelengths that can cause sunburn and skin damage.)

Your safety is important to us; that's why, for all of our light bulbs designed for general public use, we strive to minimize the amount of UV light emitted.

If you're looking for a low-UV bulb for an especially sensitive area (like a photography dark room), try our Saf-T-Gard® bulbs. They block most ultraviolet light emissions, and they're also shatter-resistant.

The wikipedia has some good technical information:

Some manufacturers make CFL bulbs with an external nano-particle coating of titanium dioxide.[33] The manufacturer claims that the titanium dioxide when exposed to UV light produced by the CFL can neutralize odors and kill bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.

A PDF from Liverpool Univeristy has a PDF online that gives a fair amount of technical information on UV radiation from CFL bulbs. Here is an except:

New research by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has shown that some energy saving Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs can emit ultraviolet radiation which can lead to sunburn in some extreme circumstances. Precautionary advice is that open (single envelope) CFLs (Fig. 1) should not be used where people are in close proximity (i.e. closer than 30 cm or 1 ft) to the bare light bulb for over 1 hour a day. For such situations open CFLs should be replaced by the encapsulated (double envelope) type (Fig. 2). Alternatively, the lamp should be moved so that it is at least 30 cm or 1 ft away.

To give a little perspective to this train of thought, the Australia's Governmental agency for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (ARPANSA) has weighed in with some good information from their online fact sheet "Ultraviolet Radiation Emissions from Compact Fluorescent Lights":

At the measurement distance of 10 cms, which was considered to be the closest distance that people would be to the lamps, even in desk top applications, 4 of the CFLs had allowed exposure times shorter than 8 hours, while a further 2 CFLs had times of approximately 10 hours. For comparison purposes, the allowed exposure limits will be exceeded in typical midday summer sunshine in approximately 6 mins in Brisbane and 7 mins in Melbourne.

My take is simple: Live life in moderation and all will be fine. Our house is mostly CFL bulbed out now--meaning that we have mostly CFL bulbs throughout the house. Our savings, being in Quebec are not what one in say Ontario might see, but we like the light, and feel good about the small contribution we are making. 

One caveat discovered this year, don't use CFL bulbs in out door unheated locations. They don't last very long and are a pain to use in the winter when it takes 15 minutes for them to warm up. Apart from that, until the LED gets is next round of improvements with Nano technology coatings, we will sit tight.

About the author: TheGreen