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Do CFL bulbs damage skin?

Tuesday - 7/24/2012, 8:17am  ET

WASHINGTON - Energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient, but new research indicates they can exacerbate existing skin conditions.

A team of researchers at New York's Stony Brook University tested compact fluorescent bulbs across New York.

They examined the impact the lights had on collagen-producing skin cells and the epidermal cell that generates keratin, the material in the outer layer of skin.

The study, published in the scholarly journal Photochemistry and Photobiology, compared skin cells exposed to both compact fluorescent light bulbs and incadescent bulbs. Skin cells exposed to the CFLs experienced damage.

"The response of the cells to the CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation," the study finds.

"Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them [CFLs] at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover," Stony Brook research Miriam Rafailovich told Futurity.

The study says that "the effects of CFL exposure on healthy skin tissue have not been thoroughly investigated."

Dr. Howard Brooks of Georgetown Skin says someone would need to be in sitting front of the compact fluorescent lights "for years" for the damage to be done.

"I won't be surprised if there are more studies down the road," Brooks says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)