Some compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can emit ultraviolet radiation (UVR) above current recognized guideline levels, according to research carried out by Britain s Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Given these findings, the HPA is recommending people should not be within one foot of an open bulb (where the tube is visible) for more than one hour per day. In cases where exposure is for longer durations, an encapsulated bulb should be used.
"This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy saving light bulbs from their homes," says Justin McCracken, Chief Executive, HPA. "We are advising people to avoid using the open light bulbs for prolonged close work until the problem is sorted out and to use encapsulated bulbs instead."
This issue was explored by Global TV's investigative news program "16x9--The Bigger Picture" airing January 4, 2009. Reporters interviewed a number of people who claim to suffer from CFL-related health issues including skin rashes and migraines. They also sought input from Health Canada and other experts in the field. An email from Health Canada explained "CFLs are not provided with a prismatic diffuser that filters ultraviolet radiation out. Therefore, there may be skin sensitivity issues, especially in people with certain skin diseases."
In an opinion paper published in 2008, Dr. Magda Havas, an expert in the field of "dirty electricity" who also appeared in the Global TV program explains, "Health Canada and other government agencies responsible for ensuring that products sold have no adverse effects need to make this information readily available to the public." She also explained, "Governments around the world are banning energy inefficient light bulbs in an attempt to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases. However, the energy efficient light bulbs that are currently available may be harming both the environment (mercury content of bulbs is high) and human health (electromagnetic pollution)."
Though much of the discussion to date has been on the issue of CFL bulbs and public health, occupational exposure must also be considered. Many use "task lighting" that may fall within the one foot range of concern identified by the HPA. Further, these potentially harmful exposures may significantly exceed the one hour limit also recommended by the HPA.
"Instead of promoting these light bulbs, governments around the world should be insisting that manufacturers produce light bulbs that are electromagnetically clean and contain no toxic chemicals," says Havas.
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