So you ditched your energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs and replaced them with efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. They seem safe enough--sure, they contain mercury, but that’s only a problem if the bulbs break. Even then, it’s not a huge deal. Researchers have discovered a real reason to be wary of CFLs, however: they can hurt healthy human skin.
The researchers tested a number of CFL bulbs from across New York State, examining the bulbs’ impact on collagen-producing skin cells and the epidermal cell that generates keratin (a structural material in the skin’s outer layer). After comparing skin cells exposed to the CFL bulbs with those exposed to incandescents, they discovered that only the skin exposed to the former bulb type experienced damage.
“Despite their large energy savings, consumers should be careful when using compact fluorescent light bulbs,” explained Miriam Rafailovich, professor of materials science and engineering at Stony Brook University, in an interview with Futurity. “Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.” However, please do not use this as an excuse to not use CFLs. They remain better than regular light bulbs.