The Sad Truth About Bad Bulbs
Scientists concluded that CFL light bulbs can be harmful to healthy skin cells.
“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said lead researcher Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, in New York, in a statement. “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.”
According to Rafailovich, with or without TiO2 (a chemical found in sunblock), incandescent bulbs of the same light intensity had zero effects on healthy skin.
The scientists found that cracks in the CFL bulbs phosphor coatings yielded significant levels of UVC and UVA in all of the bulbs — purchased in different locations across two counties — they examined.
I was an early adopter of CFLs, but have since removed almost all of them from our house. Not because of reports like this one, or because of the potential for expensive cleanups after a broken one, or any of the other many problems the screwy little bulbs create.
No, I took them out because the light sucks. And also because they're too expensive, don't last as long as advertised, and therefore aren't any cheaper to run.
I still keep a few installed, mostly outside. The sconces around our house have frosted covers, which masks just how damn ugly the light is. Besides, we're trying to make it possible to see the sidewalk at night -- not to put on makeup in the bathroom mirror or prepare tasty-looking food in the kitchen. It's also nice to run the equivalent of ten 100-watt fixtures on just a fraction of the apparent wattage.
We keep two in the garage, also -- but that's out of three ceiling fixtures. I'll explain in a moment.
CFLs broke a lot of promises.
The first promise was that you could go five or six years between replacements, but that just isn't so. Fluorescent bulbs don't burn out all at once like incandescents do. Instead, they lose their apparent wattage output over time. In my experience, CFLs have a half-life of about 30 months in normal usage. In other words, a 1000-lumen CFL will produce only 500 lumens after two-and-a-half years. By the time the rotten thing finally does completely give up the ghost, you'll be half-blind from squinting.
The second promise is that warmup times haven't improved, especially for outdoor installations. Our garage has three ceiling fixtures, and since it's a big space, it needs a lot of light. So I put in three 100-watt equivalent CFLs. Then I tried to pick something out of the chest freezer at night in winter. You could grow a beard before those bulbs put out out enough light to see what the hell you were doing.
So you know what I did? I replaced one of the CFLs -- the one directly over the chest freezer -- with a real 100-watt incandescent -- and I bought enough of the poor, banned things to last the garage a lifetime. Take that, vile progs.
Finally, dimmable CFLs aren't. I mean, they kinda-sorta are, but not really. Dim them to 40% or less, and they turn off all they way -- so much for that romantic mood lighting. And I can promise you that a woman who has seen what her face looks like under one CFL isn't going to want to show any more skin under another CFL. And if you're using fancy electronic dimmers (like the Lutron switches I install everywhere), then 3-ways won't work at all. I don't know what it is about CFLs, but they prevent those switches from "talking" to each other. Only the master switch will work at all.
Oh, and the damnable things cost $15 a pop, and burn out faster than cheapo halogens.
But other than sucking in every possible way while destroying American jobs and harming your skin, CFLs are just great.