Some special cases where CFL radiation is a health hazard
When on the Megaman site looking for information on DORS (dim-on-switching) technology, I saw several models of CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) that encased the spiral/curved fluorescent bulbs inside a globe (pictured below on the left.) This seemed like overkill and a belt-and-suspenders approach to a light bulb, but I assumed it was for aesthetic reasons.
However, reader Ray Hulinsky (thanks, Ray!) sent in this link to an announcement by the British governmental health organization, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), that some CFLs emit ultraviolet radiation at levels that, under certain conditions of use, can result in exposures higher than guideline levels. The HPA guideline limit is 30 J m-2 for the eye and skin, which is equivalent to a constant irradiance of 1 mW m-2 effective for 30,000 seconds or 8 hours, the normal working day.
The problem with the higher radiation level is not eye damage, since CFLs are bright enough that no one is going to stare at them. The HPA’s concern is for skin exposure, but only when the bulb is less than 12 inches away and for a period of more than an hour per day.
This sounded kind of ridiculous: How likely is someone to be that close to a light bulb of any kind for over an hour? However, light bulbs are ubiquitous, and are used in non-standard applications. According to the HPA, patients with lupus are especially susceptible to UV exposure: Having a CFL in a bedside lamp could exacerbate the effects of lupus.
The point of this is not that CFLs are terrible, but that users need to be aware of gotcha-type applications for them. Lupus patients and their care-givers can be educated as part of the disease that some CFLs aren’t a good choice for table lamps. (CFLs in garage-door openers may not be a good choice either.)
Back to the Megaman example: The HPA suggests enclosed or globe CFLs for any applications where UV exposure is a concern: The extra level of enclosure is enough to absorb excess UV.