We all know what health and cosmetic catastophy sun can bring unto our skin. But if you think you safe indoors, think again: Researchers at Stony Brook University found that popular energy-efficient lights can emit skin-damaging UV rays.

Scientists examined several curlicue-shaped household compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and found that nearly all had imperfections in their white phosphor coating due to their spiral shape. These tiny cracks allowed significant levels of UVA and UVC to leak through. Normally the UV light is absorbed by the phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb, which glows due to an electrochemical reaction and reappears as safe white light.

Both UVA and UVC rays are known to harm skin cells and lead to responses associated with cellular aging. Within ranges of less than a foot, some bulbs released enough harmful UVC to exceed daily safety limits in just 20 minutes! (The sun’s UVC is filtered out by the atmosphere)

Traditional incandescent light of the same intensity tested in the study had no effect on healthy skin cells, as they do not emit significant quantities of UV radiation. So far, LED light is not known to release dangerous UV rays as well.

Despite their large energy savings, we should be careful when using CFLs. The researchers say it’s also not that hard to avoid these aging rays – they recommend putting the light behind glass or keeping a few feet away from the bulb. Antioxidants in skincare products can also help to neutralize some of the environmental assault.


– By Gene Yeo