Can fluorescent office lights cause skin cancer?

There have been recent concerns regarding the effect of fluorescent lights (typically used in offices) on human skin.

On average, the UV radiation for fluorescent lights is actually lower than that from traditional light bulbs.  However, defective bulbs can emit higher levels of UV radiation, which can cause significant damage.

Scientists form State University New York, Stony Brook, did a recent study of people exposed to fluorescent lighting.    The researchers collected a number of fluorescent bulbs and measured the emissions of radiation from each bulb.  They then exposed healthy human skin to light from the bulbs.  They found that the skin exposed to the fluorescent bulbs had increased cancer-causing free radicals.

Of note, the bulbs are lined with phosphors, which should keep radiation from leaving the bulb.  As long as the phosphor is intact, it prevents skin damage.  However, if the bulb is cracked or damaged, it could allow emission of radiation.

So what can you do?  Try not to sit too close to fluorescent bulbs, consider wearing sun screen every day even if inside, and invest in glasses with UV protection.


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