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Analysis of Compact Fluorescent Lights for Use by Patients with Photosensitive Conditions


*Corresponding author email: (Robert M. Sayre)


Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is hazardous to patients with photosensitive skin disorders, such as lupus erythematosus, xeroderma pigmentosum and skin cancer. As such, these patients are advised to minimize their exposure to UVR. Classically, this is accomplished through careful avoidance of sun exposure and artificial tanning booths. Indoor light bulbs, however, are generally not considered to pose significant UVR hazard. We sought to test this notion by measuring the UV emissions of 19 different compact fluorescent light bulbs. The ability to induce skin damage was assessed with the CIE erythema action spectrum, ANSI S(λ) generalized UV hazard spectrum and the CIE photocarcinogenesis action spectrum. The results indicate that there is a great deal of variation amongst different bulbs, even within the same class. Although the irradiance of any given bulb is low, the possible daily exposure time is rather lengthy. This results in potential daily UVR doses ranging from 0.1 to 625 mJ cm−2, including a daily UVB (290–320 nm) dose of 0.01 to 15 mJ cm−2. Because patients are exposed continually over long time frames, this could lead to significant cumulative damage. It would therefore be prudent for patients to use bulbs with the lowest UV irradiance.