Real Science

The curlicue compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) oft touted as an Earth-friendly alternative to standard incandescent bulbs may cause skin damage, according to a new study by researchers at Stony Brook University.

The bulbs are already known to pose hazards from using mercury, a toxic element, though in very small quantities, as lighting manufacturers are quick to point out. Regulations in parts of the United States and in the European Union limit mercury to 3.5 milligrams per bulb, with the limit dropping to 2.5 mg next year.

Now researchers have found that ultraviolet radiation seeping through CFLs may damage skin cells. Miriam Rafailovich, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stony Brook, led the research after reading an article in an Israeli newspaper that reported a spike in skin cancer on a communal farm when residents switched to fluorescent bulbs.

“In the past two years some disturbing reports have surfaced mostly in…

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