Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Health Canada testing compact fluorescent bulbs for UV radiation

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Health Canada says it is testing compact fluorescent bulbs to measure potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation and electromagnetic-field exposure levels.

It reportedly started the tests in December, and preliminary results are expected by late summer or early fall, Health Canada spokesman Philippe Laroche said Wednesday.

"Even though the bulk of scientific studies to date have not identified any health-related issues, Health Canada has decided to test the bulbs to acquire reliable technical data," said Laroche. "If the tests establish that there are reasons for concern, actions will be taken to force manufacturers to correct the situation."

The move follows a warning from British health officials over some types of compact fluorescent bulbs.

The United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency said in October that open, or "single envelope," bulbs — which have a corkscrew-like or tube-like design — can emit ultraviolet radiation at levels that can result in exposures to UV radiation similar to exposing bare skin to direct sunlight.

The agency recommends the bulbs not be used in areas where people spend more than an hour a day within 30 cm of the bare light bulb.

However, it said its research showed encapsulated, or "double envelope," compact fluorescent bulbs — which look similar to traditional light bulbs — do not emit significant amounts of UV radiation.

The larger long tube strip lighting fluorescent lights, commonly used in offices, workplaces and homes for many years, can also be safely used.

"This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy-saving light bulbs from their homes," the U.K. agency's chief executive, Justin McCracken, said. "We are advising people to avoid using the open light bulbs for prolonged close work until the problem is sorted out and to use encapsulated bulbs instead."

British health officials with the agency also warned the open bulbs could cause problems for people suffering from medical conditions like lupus.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs has been touted worldwide as an energy saving measure and a way to cut back on emissions of greenhouses gases. The federal government has mandated that all incandescent bulbs be eliminated by 2012.