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Public Health (19-07-2011)

Public consultation: Health Effects of Artificial Light

Today, the European Commission and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) launch a public consultation on the preliminary scientific opinion on the Health Effects of Artificial Light - such as from compact fluorescent lamps or LED lighting. All those interested are invited to provide feedback on the scientific evidence and conclusions proposed by SCENIHR by 30 September 2011.

Further information on the consultation can be found here.

  • In response to recent claims from those particularly sensitive to light and new evidence in relation to light sensitivity and potential health effects of artificial light, the European Commission asked the SCENIHR to update its earlier opinion on Light Sensitivity. It asked the Scientific Committee to analyse the potential health risks of a wider range of lighting technologies and to point to possible solutions to reduce these risks. The Commission also asked the Scientific Committee to identify research needs. The earlier Opinion can be accessed here.
  • Overall, the SCENIHR considers it unlikely that artificial light causes acute health problems. Certain types of lamps emit UV radiation, but levels are usually low. However, there is insufficient data to assess the long-term risks of exposure to low levels of UV. Household lighting has a level of illumination so low that exposure to potentially harmful radiation is considered negligible.
  • No evidence was found indicating that blue light from standard household artificial lighting would be any more harmful than sunlight. Blue light from improperly used lamps from some modern lighting technology could in principle cause retinal damage in certain circumstances, but there is no evidence as to the extent to which this is actually happening in practice.
  • There is increasing evidence that lengthy exposure to artificial light outside of the normal daylight hours may be associated with certain diseases (breast cancer, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular disorders, and possibly some mental health problems). It is important to note that these health problems occur due to exposure to the light in itself, and not necessarily due to exposure to any specific type of lighting.
  • Some of the properties that underlie concerns about energy saving lamps (flicker, UV and blue light) may, under certain conditions, affect those particularly sensitive to light.
  • Finally, the SCENIHR has identified several areas where data is needed in order to look into a possible link between specific lighting technologies and certain medical conditions.