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Public Health (03-10-2008)

Energy Saving lamps : Scientific opinion on possible aggravation of symptoms for patients with specific diseases

On 23 September 2008, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) adopted an opinion on the possible contribution of certain types of energy-saving lamps to the aggravation of symptoms of patients with certain diseases.
At present, there is a trend in the European Union of promoting the wide-spread use of energy-saving light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are currently the main type of energy-saving light bulbs on the market. It has been claimed that the symptoms of several diseases may be aggravated by the use of compact fluorescent lamps and SCENIHR has been asked to evaluate the validity of these claims.
To begin with, the SCENIHR did not find suitable specific scientific data on the relationship between CFLs and symptoms in patients with specific conditions. Therefore,
SCENIHR examined whether the following three lamp characteristics could act as potential triggers for aggravation of some disease-related symptoms:
·         Flicker[1]
·         Electromagnetic fields
·         UV and blue light radiation.
Of all these CFLs properties, only UV/blue light radiation was identified as a potential risk factor in the aggravation of existing light-sensitive symptoms in some patients with diseases such as chronic actinic dermatitis and solar urticaria. No evidence was found that would indicate that either EMF or flicker could be a significant contributor.
The Committee drew attention to the fact that under extreme conditions (i.e. prolonged exposures at distances <20 cm) it has been observed that some single-envelope CFLs may lead to UV exposures approaching the current workplace limit set to protect workers from skin and retinal damage. The SCENIHR notes though that the use of commonly available double-envelope energy saving bulbs or similar technology would largely or entirely mitigate the risk for approaching workplace limits on UV emissions in extreme conditions described above, as well as the risk of aggravating the symptoms of light-sensitive individuals
Due to the lack of relevant data, the number of all light-sensitive patients in the European Union, who might be at risk from the increased levels of UV/blue light radiation generated by CFL is difficult to estimate. However, a preliminary rough estimation of the worst-case scenario yields a number of around 250,000 individuals (0.05% of the population) in the EU.
For more information on the SCENIHR opinion please visit the following link:

[1]modulation of light intensity perceived by the human eye