Energy saving lamps emit UV-B and traces of UV-C radiation. It is generally recognised that UV-radiation is harmful for the skin (eg. skin cancer) and the eyes (eg. cataract). UV-C radiation, which is normally not observed in nature because it is absorbed completely in the atmosphere, is especially harmful.
Several studies have found that fluorescent lights raise the risk for skin cancer (7). A study published in The Lancet, for example, indicated a doubled risk for melanoma (8).
There have been numerous reports of people with skin conditions and light sensitivity who react badly to CFL’s (9). But also people without existing skin conditions can develop adverse skin reactions such as redness and a hot, burning sensation in the face (10).
Organisations defending the right of people to safe lighting, such as “Right to Light” and “Spectrum Alliance”, have therefore heavily criticised the plans to ban incandescent lamps. The British Association of Dermatologists has supported this criticism (11).
CFL’s with a double envelope emit less or no UV-radiation. Nevertheless, most people don’t know that a double envelope is needed to shield the UV-radiation. As long as single envelope CFL’s (which are cheaper than double envelope ones) are sold on the market, UV-radiation will continue to be a public health problem.
(7) eg. Lytle CD, Cyr WH, Beer JZ, Miller SA, James RH, Landry RJ, et al. An estimation of squamous cell carcinoma risk from ultraviolet radiation emitted by fluorescent lamps. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1992/1993; 9:268-274.
(8) V. Beral, S. Evans, H. Shaw & G. Milton (1982), ‘Malignant melanoma and exposure to fluorescent lighting at work’, The Lancet, 7 August 1982, pp. 290-293.
(9) ‘Low-energy bulbs worsen rashes’, BBC news, 04/01/2008
Documentary ‘Rays of Rash’, aired on Canadian television: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CVLa_tRslY
(10) eg. ‘The energy-saving light bulbs that could leave you red-faced… from UV radiation’, The Daily Mail, 15/10/2008
(11) ‘Low-energy bulbs ‘worsen rashes’, BBC News, 04/01/2008