Low-energy bulbs ‘could cause skin cancer’


Using environmentally-friendly light bulbs can be bad for your skin, say doctors.

The new energy-saving bulbs produce a more intense light and can exacerbate a range of existing skin problems.

Now it is feared that thousands of people may be unable to use electric light in their own homes, visit family and friends, or have access to employment and public services if the government’s plan to phase out the normal variety of incandescent lighting goes ahead without exemptions.

The warning has been issued by Spectrum, an alliance of charities working with people with light sensitive conditions, and the British Association of Dermatologists.

It comes after the Migraine Action Association warned the energy-saving light bulbs could trigger migraines.

The government wants to phase out traditional, incandescent bulbs by 2011 but no allowances have been made for people suffering from light sensitive conditions who often suffer severe and painful reactions to fluorescent lighting and other forms of non-incandescent lighting.

Spectrum is running a campaign to raise awareness of the impact on people’s health in response to the government decision to ban incandescent light bulbs. They claim as many as 340,000 people could be affected.

Andrew Langford, chief executive officer of the Skin Care Campaign, one of the charities involved, said: ‘Incandescent light bulbs are the only source of electric light for many thousands of people with light sensitive conditions.

‘Add to this the thousands of people whose conditions or treatments may secondarily cause them to be light sensitive, and you have a large number of people potentially being isolated in the dark.

‘The government simply must allow incandescent light bulbs to be available to these people, their families, friends and employers, and at a fair price.’

Dr Colin Holden, President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: ‘It is important that patients with photosensitive skin eruptions are allowed to use lights that don’t exacerbate their condition.

‘Photosensitive eruptions range from disabling eczema-like reactions, to light sensitivities that can lead to skin cancer. It is essential that such patients are able to protect themselves from specific wavelengths of light emitted by fluorescent bulbs, especially as they are often trapped indoors because they can’t venture out in natural sunlight.’

Spectrum is urging the government to maintain the availability of incandescent light bulbs purely to those who affected, which will enable the protection of the environment without penalising those unable to live with fluorescent lighting. One option could simply be to allow the purchase of environmentally-friendly, energy efficient incandescent light bulbs which GE Consumer and Industrial is currently developing and hopes to market in 2010.

Spectrum argues that the total social exclusion for thousands of vulnerable, sick and disabled people, resulting from an unconditional ban, would contradict many other policies of the government, including Disability Equality Duty, which came into force on 4 December 2006, and the Green Paper on Welfare Reform published in January 2006.

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