From The Scotsman, 1 September 20122. Story by Natalie Walker.
TWO million people in the UK face increased risk of health problems, campaigners have warned, following a European ban on incandescent bulbs starting today.
While the move to energy-saving bulbs has been widely welcomed, there are concerns about the impact on people who are sensitive to LED lighting.
Campaigners warn they can aggravate light-sensitive medical conditions such as the auto- immune disease lupus, bring on nausea and migraines, and can even cause skin to burn.
New European legislation, which comes into effect today, bans the import and manufacture of the old-style bulbs in a bid to save energy.
Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore is now leading calls for the UK government to seek an exemption for those who suffer ill-health as a result of exposure to low-energy light bulbs.
The Labour MP said: “If nothing is done, people who suffer ill-health from low-energy lighting will be forced to live the rest of their lives in the dark.
“We don’t want to discourage people from using low-energy light bulbs, however, it is important to realise for some people there are real health issues arising from the use of low-energy bulbs.’
Catherine Hessett, from Spectrum Alliance, a group representing people affected by low-energy lighting, said the new European legislation will mean many people will no longer be able to go into public buildings such as banks, libraries and shops, where the bulbs are used.She said: “We know of people who have been forced to give up their jobs because they cannot work in low-energy lighting.”
“In these difficult financial times, the last thing the British economy needs is shutting people out of public life.
“We want the government to push for an exemption to allow people to buy incandescent lights and to change the specification of low-energy light bulbs so that people can get on with their lives.”
The group has evidence which shows the LED bulbs can aggravate a range of pre-existing medical conditions, including autism, ME and epilepsy.
Sufferers can suffer from skin burns, sore red eyes, headaches and sickness.
Lighting accounts for 19 per cent of electricity use worldwide, according to an estimate from the International Energy Agency, a figure that could drop to 7 per cent if the rest of the world switched to LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs have already been phased out in China, Australia and Brazil.
In 2009, 100-watt bulbs were banned, 75W bulbs in 2010 and 60W bulbs in 2011. The remaining old-style bulbs – 40W and 25W – are banned from today.
Fluorescent bulbs have longer lifespans, are more energy efficient, and use 80 per cent less electricity than traditional bulbs.
The Department of Health have said that EU health experts recommend a “small percentage” of people with light- sensitive conditions should use so-called “double-envelope” fluorescent lights, which they say “largely or entirely mitigate the risk of aggravating the symptoms of light-sensitive individuals”.
CASE STUDY: ‘EVEN IN SUMMER I AM LOCKED OUT OF MY LIFE'
Catherine Hesset first became aware she had a problem with LED lighting after falling ill at a friend's house, which was full of LED lights.
Mrs Hessett, who is a statistician, said: “As the evening wore on I became ware of not feeling well, not being able to think properly and getting an awful headache. I was off work for three days afterwards. It became something massive.
“AS the use of these bulbs has spread, I have become more sensitive to being exposed to them. I develop symptoms much more quickly and faint within five minutes, Doing a weekly supermarket shop is impossible for me and public buildings have lights on all the time. Even in the summer. I am locked out of my life.”
Mrs Hessett, 57, of Edinburgh, seven has to wear sunglasses to go into puboic toilets to block out lights. She said: “When I am in incandescent lighting I have no symptoms. If I avoid the lights I don't need medication.
“The European Union says people like me should use double envelope CFLs [compact fluorescent lighting]. These are the bulbs that look like ordinary bulbs bot have a compact fluorescent lamp in the middle. All that does for me is to delay the on-set of the symptoms.
“I know of someone else with this who takes strong medication which has awful side effects to work in an open-plan office.”