Open compact fluorescent light bulb

UV Warning for Compact Fluorescent Lights

Britain's Health Protection Agency is publishing new research that says some of the popular energy-saving compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can emit ultraviolet radiation resulting in exposures above guideline levels in some settings. The Agency and other UK government departments are calling on the European Union, relevant product standards bodies, and the lighting industry to consider how product standards for CFLs can be strengthened, and the agency has recommended some precautionary measures.

The agency says open (single envelope) CFLs should not be used where people are in close proximity -- closer than 1 foot -- to the bare bulb for more than one hour per day. Encapsulated (double envelope) bulbs, which resemble the familiar incandescent bulbs, should be used instead, the agency said this month.

"This is precautionary advice, and people should not be thinking of removing these energy saving light bulbs from their homes. 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," Health Protection Agency Chief Executive Justin McCracken said. "In other situations where people are not likely to be very close to the bulbs for any length of time, all types of compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe to use."

Not all open bulbs have significant UVR emissions, but people in very close proximity to some of them receive an exposure to bare skin like being outside in direct sunlight, according to an account of the research posted by the Health and Safety Executive, England's OSHA-type agency.

The precautionary advice from the agency is interim and may be updated after further research. Britain's government is asking the EU to take account of the findings in future European legislation, noting that exposure to UVR can cause particular problems for people suffering from some medical conditions, including Lupus. The agency's research has been accepted for publication: M Khazova and J B O'Hagan, "Optical Radiation Emissions from Compact Fluorescent Lamps." Radiation Protection Dosimetry (pre-publication access at http://rpd.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/ncn234v1).

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