Light Bulbs

UV Radiation From Lightbulbs
Some people are sensitive to indoor lighting like the fluorescent lighting found in large warehouse type stores and other commercial buildings. Many schools, hospitals, and medical clinics use fluorescent lighting. People with sun and light sensitivity (photosensitivity) can also be sensitive to UV radiation from artificial lighting. Reactions to indoor UV lighting can include rashes, itching, low grade fevers, and muscle and joint pain. Some describe the effects of UV lighting as giving them a "whoozy" feeling or feeling nauseous or fatigued.

Protecting yourself from indoor UV radiation
Protect yourself from indoor UV radiation by using the same techniques as you would for the sun outside. Routinely wear sunscreen with high UVA and UVB protection. Choose to wear protective long sleeved clothing and do not hesitate to put on a hat, sunglasses, or gloves. Replace sources of UV radiation such as fluorescent lighting with incandescent bulbs or add UV shields to existing lighting.

The Ban of the Light Bulb
While the United States government has not officially declared a ban of Edison’s incandescent light bulb, beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2020, the federal government is requiring consumers to purchase light bulbs that are more energy efficient. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 changes the energy efficiency standards for light bulbs in the United States; and therefore, modifies what is available for purchase off store shelves. Other nations have adopted similar standards for more efficient light bulbs. For those of us who are extremely sensitive to UV light, the prospect of our “safe” source of light being taken away from us is bad news.

About Light Bulbs
The alternatives to the incandescent bulb are the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), the halogen light bulb, and the Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting.

One drawback to incandescent bulb replacement is both fluorescent and halogen lighting emit ultraviolet (UV) light. Of course, it is commonly accepted that human skin is sensitive to UV light, the reason it is important to wear sunscreen when outdoors.

Our members are people with conditions making us much more sensitive to UV light sources than the general population.

Fluorescent Lighting
Fluorescent lighting is the lighting often selected for industrial uses, and in offices, schools, and hospitals. Fluorescent lighting produces light in the ultraviolet wavelength range. Fluorescent lighting is believed to be generally safe and is not considered a health hazard in the general population; however, fluorescent lighting can produce significant amounts of UV leakage. The amount of UV irradiation that can leak from such light sources can vary widely.

A simple alternative to fluorescent lights is replacement with incandescent lights or LED lighting.

Low UV light bulbs are more expensive but can be found from manufacturers. Many shatter-resistant fluorescent bulbs are coated with a UV blocking material. There are several options for protection from UV if replacement lighting is not a realistic option. Blocking sleeves known as UV Tube Guards and UV Filters can be purchased. Search for the type of bulb covering used in art galleries and museums to prevent UV degradation.

Fluorescent lamps are one of a series of products that produce UVR, which is emitted from low pressure mercury vapour. The mercury vapour emits UVR when an electrical discharge is passed through it - most of the energy emitted is at a wavelength of 254 nm. This lies in the UVC portion of the spectrum (180-280 nm). In the case of fluorescent lighting, the 254 nm radiation is used to excite a phosphor which coats the inside of the glass envelope of the lamp. The phosphor will re-emit at visible wavelengths (different phosphors produce different colours), and any UVC which is not absorbed by the phosphor will be absorbed by the glass wall of the lamp. However, the mercury discharge will also emit at other wavelengths - notably at 365 nm, which lies in the UVA (315-400 nm). This UVA radiation may not be absorbed by the phosphor, and much of it will pass out through the lamp walls into the environment. [Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) from FluorescentLamps, Public Health England

Halogen Bulbs

Many have shied away from halogen bulbs because they are a fire hazard. The reason they take a while to become bright is that they need time to heat to high temperatures. Most substances will catch fire within a very short period of coming into contact with a halogen bulb.

CFL Bulbs
Specialty vendors sell items that help to block the UV from fluorescent bulbs. Products range from sheets of protective film placed as a barrier between people and the bulb, to sleeves that cover the entire bulb. Most of these claim to filter out 80% to 99% of the UV light emitted from a fluorescent bulb. Helpful, but these do not produce a UV-free environment.

Single Envelope CFL on left, Double Envelope CFL on right
An extra layer of glass is added to “double envelope” CFL bulbs, which filters out some, but not all, UV light. When researching this article, we found no reliable information stating the amount of UV light that gets through the second layer of glass.  After a thorough medical literature search, researchers concluded CFLs present a low level of risk to individuals of normal sensitivity but they are potentially harmful to photosensitive persons; therefore, the use of double envelope lamps was recommended.

(Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2011 Jun; 27 (3): 131-7. The risk to normal and photosensitive individuals from exposure to light from compact fluorescent lamps.  Moseley H, Ferguson J.)

In one study done in 2012, damage to skin cells from exposure to CFLs was consistent with damage from UV radiation. Surprisingly, the study also shows that if one is wearing Titanium Dioxide (TiO2 NPs), which is a prime ingredient in many sunscreens and cosmetics, the damage to skin cells inflicted by CFLs is actually enhanced. Incandescent light of the same intensity had no effect on skin cells, with or without Titanium Dioxide. [The Effects of UV Emission from Compact Fluorescent Light Exposure on Human Dermal Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes In Vitro, Mironava, et. al, 20 June,2012

When a fluorescent bulb is broken, the following procedure should be followed:

LED Bulbs
LED bulbs output more closely resembles incandescent bulbs.

Although the price of cool, UV-free, non-flickering LED bulbs has lowered, they continue to sell at higher prices than other bulbs. When their lifespan is taken into account – up to 41 times longer than an incandescent bulb – consumers will actually save money. LED bulbs don’t burn out, they fade. The life span hours are based on how long it takes most people to notice the bulb’s brightness has faded to about 70% brightness of a new bulb. If 70% brightness does not bother the consumer, the life span of LED bulbs can actually be longer.

Originally, LED lighting options were less than desirable because they were pricy, one-directional, and could not work with dimmer switches. There are now LED bulbs available that work with dimmer switches. LED bulbs are available as multidirectional bulbs, in many shapes, sizes, and colors, even replacing the commercial fluorescent bulbs we commonly see in stores and schools.

Credit: Sharon Vaknin/CNET “Five Things to Consider Before Buying LED Bulbs” 

Comparison of Bulbs
LED Bulbs vs. CFL And Incandescent
60 Watt Incandescent
15 Watt CFL
8 Watt LED
Life Span
1,200 hours
8,000 hours
25,000-50,000 hours
Energy Required To Equal 60 watt Incandescent
15 watts
8 watts*
Yearly Energy Cost Per 20 bulbs
Cost (Lowest), 2011)
Number of Incandescent Bulbs Saved
Contains Mercury?
Comes On Instantly?
BTU's Of Heat Generated Per Hour
Cycling On And Off Affects Life Span?

Additional artificial UV sources

Black Lights
“Black light” fluorescent tubes emit short-wavelength VIS (blue-violet) and low intensity UV-A (about 365 nm). These lighting types are used in the entertainment industry and in insect control (e.g., “bug zapper lights”). Eye care professionals commonly use Burton lamps, which typically combine two black light tubes with a magnifying lens to assess the fit of rigid gas permeable contact lens.
Burton lamp. (

They may be used by store-owners for the detection of counterfeit bills. Some people use black lights to check how well the hotel rooms they are about to occupy have been cleaned.

Metal Halide Lamps
Metal halide lamps, also known as high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, are very efficient sources of white light. The light produced is more similar to sunlight than that from any other common lamp. HID lamps are used in warehouses, sports stadiums, school gymnasiums, and large department, discount, and bulk stores.

The typical metal halide lamp emits a significant amount of UV-B and some UV-C in addition to visible light. The lamp must be enclosed in borosilicate glass (a.k.a. Pyrex) to absorb the UV radiation. Unfortunately, if the glass cover cracks or breaks, most lamps of this type will still function and an observer can be exposed to UV radiation.

Sunbeds, also known as tanning beds, use an array of fluorescent lamps with broadband UV-A and UV-B emission.

Electric arc welding emits UV radiation throughout its spectrum, as well as very high intensity visible light.

Curing and Measurement Systems
Glues, epoxies, and plastics used in various industries require UV radiation for proper curing (hardening). The typical source is a xenon arc lamp, which has broadband emission throughout the UV, VIS, and IR spectra, emitting UV radiation down to 200 nm. While many curing systems completely filter UV when closed and in use, workers are advised to wear proper eye and skin protection if they need to insert or remove materials when the unit is on.
Technician using UV curing system wearing protective eyewear and gloves

Xenon arc lamps also are used in spectrophotometers that measure transmission and reflection of optical and other materials, and as broadband sources in science labs. Protective precautions similar to those for curing system should be employed.

The excimer laser used in refractive surgery (e.g., PRK and LASIK) operates at a wavelength of 193.3 nm, which is in the UV-C range.

Medical Systems and PUVA Treatment
Therapeutic lamps that emit UV-A and UV-B radiation are used in the treatment of some skin disorders such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and dermatitis. In photochemotherapy, a photosensitizing drug or agent is applied topically, ingested, or injected, thereby enhancing the effect of broadband UV-A exposure. Exposure areas and duration must be strictly controlled

Disinfection Systems
Lamps with UV-C emission are very effective at killing microorganisms. They are often used in pools, spas, and water purification systems in place of chemical disinfectants, such as chlorine.

Military Applications
Military uses of UV sources include biological agent detection, decontamination of personnel and equipment, water and air purification, efficient light production (similar to standard fluorescent lighting), and non-line-of-sight covert communications.

Artificial UV Light Sources
Table 1 gives some examples of occupations with a higher potential risk of ultraviolet exposure. Table 2 gives examples of common occupational devices with UV radiation. 

Table 1
Workers at Potential Risk from Exposure to UV Radiation

Food and drink irradiators
Salon workers and patrons
Laboratory workers
Lighting technicians
Lithographic and printing workers
Forensic experts
Dentists and assistants
Dermatologists and pediatricians
General freight truckers
Outdoor workers
Construction workers
Contractors and surveyors
Paint and resin curers
Plasma torch operators
Agriculture, forestry, fishing

Table 2
Some Devices Emitting UV Radiation

Bactericidal lamps
Black light lamps
Carbon, xenon and other arcs
Dental polymerizing equipment
Fluorescence equipment
Hydrogen and deuterium lamps
Ultraviolet nail curing lamps

Metal halide lamps
Mercury lamps
Plasma torches
Phototherapy lamps
Printing ink polymerizing equipment
Welding equipment
Counterfeit currency detectors

  Consult with your physician regarding any treatments or medical advice suggested by this website.
We are not physicians, we are people trying to learn about our conditions and better our lives. We try to be accurate, but the articles and advice may have errors, become out-of-date, or even give bad advice. 

 We highly recommend that you try anything new in moderation, 
to test for any reaction you might have. 

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