Saturday March 14,2009

By Penny Stretton


SERIOUS concerns were raised yesterday about the toxic effects of energy-saving lightbulbs.


Doctors say scores of people are coming forward with skin complaints after being exposed to the ultra-violet light emitted by the new-style bulbs. And the mercury powder inside them makes handling a broken bulb extremely dangerous.



Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause itching, burning, skin inflammation, kidney problems and insomnia.


Alarming guidelines issued by the Government warn that anyone breaking a low-energy bulb should leave the room immediately.


The guidelines, published on the Defra website, say: “Vacate the room and ventilate it for at least 15 minutes. (Note of the editor: make that 45 minutes)


“Do not use a vacuum cleaner but clean up using rubber gloves and aim to avoid creating and inhaling airborne dust.”


The debris must be disposed of at a secure site for contaminated material or returned to the retailer.


Last night experts claimed the Government had not done enough to make people aware of the dangers of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).


EU rules mean all old incandescent lightbulbs must be phased out by 2012. But the green measure could backfire and end up harming the environment.


Dr Michelle Bloor, of Ports mouth University, said: “If thousands of CFL bulbs were sent to landfill this could pose a problem. Mercury could leak and get into the food chain.


“Mercury cannot escape from an intact lamp. But people must try to avoid contact with it if they do break one.


“The problem is that many councils do not know the correct guidelines for disposing of the lamps. Only six out of 17 we spoke to knew the rules.”


Gerrard Fisher, of recycling group Wrap, said: “Mercury is a dangerous material. Consumers have to be careful.”


Fears that CFLs and halogen lamps can cause migraine, epilepsy and eczema have already been raised. People who suffer from Lupus, a disorder which leaves them housebound because they cannot be exposed to light, are also reporting a flare-up of their condition.


Dr Robert Sarkany, consultant dermatologist at Kings College London, said: “Reactions to fluorescent lights are not well understood. But I am seeing regular handfuls of patients who are complaining of skin allergies when exposed to them, as are my colleagues.


Common symptoms are severe stinging, burning and itching of the skin, along with red rash. We don’t understand these symptoms well yet, but they do exist. I think it would be perfectly reasonable for people who suffer these very serious problems to still have access to traditional bulbs.”


Lupus sufferer Brenda Ryder, 56, of the Isle of Wight, said: “A total ban on incandescent lighting would be terrible for me.”



Low-energy light bulbs can cause rashes and swelling to sensitive skin, warn experts


By David Derbyshire
Last updated on 14th March 2009

The phasing out of traditional light bulbs could cause misery for thousands who have light-sensitive skin disorders, medical experts warned yesterday.

Dr Robert Sarkany said some low-energy bulbs gave vulnerable people painful rashes and swelling. He backed calls by patient groups for the Government to give medical exemptions for those at risk.


But medical charities say the light from low-energy bulbs triggers migraines, epilepsy and rashes. Dr Sarkany, a photodermatologist at St John’s Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, said he has treated patients for rashes caused by exposure to low-energy lamps. Some suffer from lupus, a disease of the immune system that can cause skin to become hypersensitive to sunlight.

But Dr Sarkany said lupus sufferers were also reporting an adverse reaction to fluorescent lights.
He added: ‘Patients with lupus feel strongly about this. They feel their skin deteriorates with fluorescent lights and have taken this issue to Parliament.’

A spokesman for Skin Care Campaign said: ‘The main concern is over the intensity of the ultraviolet light from low-energy bulbs.

‘Particularly for people with skin conditions such as lupus, eczema and psoriasis, it causes a lot of problem with burning.

‘There are also more unusual conditions where people are completely light-sensitive.

‘At the moment, they can use a traditional incandescent light bulb because the ultraviolet light is so dim.

‘But low-energy fluorescent lights are a problem.’

This entry was posted in Mercury, UV radiation / skin problems. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. CFls are bad news from cradle to grave. They cause all sorts of problems with health. The UV is a huge issue for everyone. The radio frequency radiation is another issue. And then there is the mercury, about 5 mg per lamp times 675 million in US landfills alone. Please visit Greenmuze.com and read my article “The Dark Side of CFLs.
    Cheers walt

  2. Victoria says:

    Someone broke a cfl light in my bedroom 2 months ago and since then I have been suffering from dermatitis/eczema. I didnt know about the problem of cfl breaking. The electrician removed the bulb but I am concerned that if there are still traces in my bedroom. How can I find out if there is or what can I do to make sure it is all gone?

  3. Sue says:

    I broke one of these bulbs today. I did not know the dangers of them until reading about it later in the afternoon. Now I am concerned that I will suffer some kind of side effects from being exposed to the Mercury. You will need to keep records of these reports in case there is a class action law suite against the companies that make these bulbs later.

  4. Geoffrey Monk says:

    Would like to know what effect low energy bulbs have on the eyes with regard to cataracts – my Optician has told me not to use them as they can bring on cataracts.

  5. Linda DnW says:

    Unknowningly, I’ve been sitting right under one of the new light bulbs. I’m a retired grandmother and for three years I’ve been wondering why my hair is falling out, and why I have so many other symptoms of Lupus.

    Three years ago we put all new type bulbs in every lamp in my house. But tonight I’m taking them out and putting the regular kind back in. My reading lamp, by my chair with me and my laptop, is where I sit 90% of the time.

    It is slightly above me to the right and I thought it was a good thing to have the light right here at hand. One lamp has a lampshade but the main one which shines light on me and my laptop, does not have a shade.

    My hair has been falling out almost entirely on my right side. My right eye is beet-red each morning when I get up. I have muscle aches & pains. And last week I had that rash on my face.

    I have other symptoms as well and I’m betting I slowly get better if I take out all the new-fangled light bulbs. I’m just glad I discovered these notes online.

  6. Barbara Morrison says:

    Friday night one of the bulbs exploded in my bedroom. I was unaware of the dangers and cleaned it up imediately. Sat. I broke out in a horrific itchie rash Its wed now and I still have the rash and it not getting any better. I am taking Benadryl and lots of calamine lotion. They help with the itch. but my skin is still breaking out in places.Is there could there be a connection?
    If anyone can shed any light on this. Please help.

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