Dangers Of Light Saving Bulbs; Separating Myth From The Truth

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Incandescent bulbs are the traditional bulbs that had been in use for over a century, in most parts of the world. Today, they are still used scarcely in some parts of the world, while in others, their use has been banned altogether.

The shift to the modern compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) was made in an attempt to conserve energy. The CFLs use up to 80% less power than the old bulbs. They also have a longer lifespan. Unlike the old bulbs, which use a glowing filament, CFLs contain mercury vapor and argon, confined in a spiral tube. When the gas in CFLs is heated, an ultraviolet light is produced. This, in turn, excites a fluorescent covering painted inside the tube, and this coating emits light after absorbing energy.

Because of the structure and function of CFLs, recently there has been a concern among medical professionals and other experts as to the negative impacts associated with these energy saving bulbs.

In this article, we examine those concerns and try to determine which are legitimate and which are likely to be untrue.

Can CFLs Cause Blindness?

Energy saving bulbs do produce some amount of UV radiation. Exposure to UV light can lead to damage to the skin, as well as cataract formation. Cataracts are among the leading causes of blindness, especially in old age. Energy saving bulbs don’t emit as much UV light as the sun does, so exposure is not much. However, there is no telling what exposure over a long period of time will do to your eyes and skin.

The European Union has recommended that we limit exposure by staying at a foot away from the location of the bulbs. Some people, however, argue that it would be difficult to take such precautions around the comfort of one’s home.

Mercury Poisoning

Each energy saving bulb has about 5 milligrams of mercury inside it. Mercury is a toxic waste and a neurotoxin. Ideally, there’s no danger of exposure to mercury, as long as the bulb is intact. Concerns arise when the bulb breaks. Should it break and spill on your upholstery or carpets, it would lead to mercury exposure in the air.

Each bulb releases no more than 0.7 milligrams of mercury when it breaks. Researchers found that given this amount, it would take weeks before the vapor from the mercury can get to hazardous levels. Moreover, there are safe cleanup procedures, which can help you get rid of the mercury real quick.

Energy Saving Bulbs & Cancer

CFLs do emit some UV radiation and it is not clear if, over time of being exposed to it, one might get skin cancer. Direct exposure to UV radiation damages the skin cells. Exposure would have to happen at close range for any damage to occur.

However, defective CFLs permit UV radiation leaks in levels that are most likely to damage the skin cells. And, since you may not be able to tell the difference between a defective CFL and a bulb without defects, it’s advisable to use fixtures to shield the bulbs.

Reference:
The medical experts who refuse to use low-energy lightbulbs in their homes: Professors have stocked up on old-style bulbs to protect against skin cancer and blindness. So should YOU be worried?
The Great Energy Challenge
Image Source Wikimedia Commons

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