The widespread introduction of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and the suggested phasing out of incandescent lamps has caused concerns among patients that CFLs could aggravate certain disease-related symptoms.
Based on the mode of operation of these lamps, the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) identified flicker, electromagnetic fields, and ultraviolet and blue light radiation as the three characteristics to be examined in order to assess the risks.
Based on this analysis, the Committee concluded that:
- There is no evidence to suggest that flicker from CFLs poses a risk to sensitive individuals.
- There is no evidence that electromagnetic fields generated by CFLs cause harmful effects.
- There is no evidence that the use of CFLs aggravates the symptoms of migraine, autism, Irlen-Meares syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, dyspraxia or HIV-infection and it is unlikely that fluorescent lamps can cause snow blindness or cataracts.
- The ultraviolet and blue light radiation from CFLs is a potential risk factor for the aggravation of symptoms in some light-sensitive patients with such diseases as chronic actinic dermatitis and solar urticaria. Across the EU, an estimated 250 000 patients could be concerned (preliminary rough estimation of worst case scenario).
- Using some single-envelope CFLs for prolonged periods of time near the body (at distances smaller than 20 cm) can result in ultraviolet exposures nearing current workplace limits set to protect workers from skin and retinal damage.
- The use of double-envelope energy-saving lamps or similar technology would largely or entirely mitigate risks both of approaching workplace limits on UV emissions in extreme conditions and the risk of aggravating the symptoms of light-sensitive people.