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Ray risk in fluorescent lamps

They come cheap and cut electricity costs, but Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) — fast replacing traditional tubelights — could well make users pay a far heavier price. That’s the crux of a report, scripted by Electronics Regional Test Laboratory (ERTL).

Scientists at the eastern unit of the lab under the Union ministry of communication and information technology have found “excessive radiation of ultraviolet (UV) rays” from these lamps, available in the market in different designs and wattage varying from 15 to 40 watts.

“We conducted a thorough research on these lamps for about a year. In June, we found UV ray radiation from these lamps to be at least 10 times higher than ordinary tubelights,” said Dhananjoy Biswas, senior scientist, ERTL.

According to him, UV ray has “multiple hazards” for the eyes and the body. It is more harmful for children, the report has highlighted.

According to the institute in Salt Lake’s Sector V, engaged in testing and quality certification of electrical products, CFL manufacturers have been alerted about the findings.

Floodlights, used in marriages and puja pandals, are even more harmful, as the quantum of radiation is higher (see box).

An e-mail and several calls on the matter to Philips, a leading player in the CFL market, remained unanswered till late on Tuesday.

“UV ray damages eyesight, as optical nerves dry up under its exposure. It increases the possibility of cataract… UV ray may even cause skin cancer,’’ warned Biswas.

But numbers from the market suggest the CFL share is fast increasing and is flooding both homes and commercial establishments. Besides, these lights are extensively used in malls and showrooms.

“The CFLs are fitted against the false ceilings of showrooms. So, consumers and shopkeepers are in close range of UV ray radiation. The radiation is very high in shops as the lamps are fitted in a row… Exposure of 15 minutes or more can cause headache and a burning sensation in eyes,” said Biswas.

But the study by ERTL (east) has pointed out that the quantum of radiation and its impact reduces if these lamps are fitted at a distance.

“We have found out that if a cover made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used for CFLs, at least 90 per cent of the UV ray radiation can be reduced. As PET is transparent, light from CFL will not be reduced,” claimed Biswas.

He added that the findings have already been forwarded to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its seal of approval.

“We have applied for a patent to produce UV filters for CFLs of different shapes and sizes. We are making manufacturers aware of the development and urging them to make CFL with UV filters,’’ said Biswas.

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