By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new study says energy efficient bulbs are eco-friendly and can save you big bucks, but they could be causing a health danger. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl reveals the light bulb’s potential dark side.

Few of us would expose ourselves to the sun’s ultraviolet rays without some protection. But you may already be doing that inside your home.

“When there is something in your house, you don’t perceive any danger,” said Miriam Rafailovich, a professor in the Material Science and Engineering department at Stony Brook University.

A disturbing new study out of Stony Brook University found these money-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Researchers randomly tested the bulbs and found the rays are so strong that they can actually burn your skin.

“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a professor of dermatology at Stony Brook University.

In other words, exposure to the bulbs could lead to premature aging.

“It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest form, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung, a dermatologist.

In every bulb that researchers tested, they found the protective coating around the phosphor, which creates the light inside the bulb, was cracked, allowing dangerous ultraviolet rays to escape. It’s a concern for many families.

“That’s very unfortunate, because the kids are getting exposed to so many different things at a younger age,” said Vicky Cobbs, who was concerned about energy efficient bulbs.

And now, the federal government is phasing out the old incandescent bulbs altogether, in favor of compact fluorescents.

“Now that you’re telling me there’s a health risk, I really don’t think it’s fair that they would not sell the other kind of light bulbs,” said Vicky.

The compact fluorescent industry says the bulbs are safe but admits they do emit ultra-violet rays. In a statement the industry insists, “…the levels of UV radiation emitted are acceptably low… they’re safe under normal use.”

“We’re not telling people to throw away these bulbs,” said Rafailovich.

Researchers say you can be safe by exercising caution. Make sure you’re always two feet away from these bulbs, whether they’re in an overhead fixture or a lamp — a shade will not protect you.

“They are energy efficient, it’s just a matter of distance,” explained Rafailovich.

Researchers say they don’t know why the bulbs are cracking. The FDA says they’re safe, but you can buy bulbs that have an additional coating to further reduce UV exposure.


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