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Why are Fluorescent/CFL lights so harmful?
Toxic Mercury in your office and home
Fluorescent light bulbs contain the toxic compound mercury, which could cause mercury poisoning in varying degrees if you handle broken bulbs without protection. According to the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) some symptoms of mild exposure to mercury include, but are not limited to insomnia, headache, mood changes, muscle atrophy, irritability, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen gums, a metallic taste in your mouth and breathing difficulties If the condition is not treated, permanent lung or brain damage and kidney failure is possible.
Bulbs containing Mercury
Many light bulbs on the market contain elemental mercury. All HID light bulbs including metal halide and high-pressure sodium light bulbs contain certain levels of mercury. 250-watt metal halide and high-pressure sodium light bulbs contain around 38 mg and 15 mg of mercury.
All fluorescent light bulbs contain the toxic compound mercury. The amount of mercury present in your fluorescent light bulb is very small in most cases–some bulbs contain as little as 3.5 mg per bulb no matter what the wattage is.
If you are prone to migraine headaches, you might want to examine the type of light bulbs you use in your home or workplace. Older fluorescent bulbs use ballasts that create cycles at 60 hertz per second. These cycles are often slow enough for humans to distinguish the arcs of electricity pass through the bulb. This flicker can cause headaches and eyestrain. Some people who use fluorescent lighting might see an increase in their migraines. Though CFLs, or compact fluorescent light bulbs provide a constant source of light, larger, more traditional types of fluorescent lighting often used in schools and office buildings can flicker at times like a strobe and may contribute to the start of a headache, or even seizures, in some people.
Approximately 10 – 12 percent of people suffer from scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which causes severe eyestrain. Patients with this condition see things like words on a page or even their surrounding landscape with blurs, duplication or movement. Because fluorescent light goes into the scotopic spectrum (as opposed to just photopic), sensitivity is made worse under fluorescent lights.
Fluorescent light allergies are not uncommon and cause health issues from headaches to skin rashes. Although these allergies are caused by preexisting conditions, they can be exacerbated by fluorescent lighting.Skin rashes are common reactions to fluorescent light. Although not an actual “medical allergy,” many people with preexisting conditions do develop slight, itchy patches to severe skin rashes after prolonged contact with fluorescent lights. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, “fluorescent light bulbs are known to worsen skin rashes in people with a variety of diseases and conditions including dermatitis, eczema, lupus, photosensitivity, porphyria and xeroderma pigmentosum.”
Mercury vapor produces ultraviolet radiation that can be harmful to humans, especially to the eyes, where it can destroy fragile light sensing cells. However, almost all radiation in the bulb is absorbed by the phosphor coating before it escapes, bringing UV light levels down. The only time humans are exposed to the radiation is when the bulbs break.