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Are energy saving lightbulbs harmful?

10th October 2008

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has warned that exposure to energy-saving light bulbs could make the skin redden "because of ultraviolet light emissions".

lightbulbs

The HPA said that people should avoid being closer than 30cm (1ft) to compact fluorescent (cfl) bulbs for extended periods. In bulbs where the coil is enclosed, there is less risk, it said.

The HPA carried out testing on bulbs after being contacted by people who suffered from sensitivity to light.

They found that around a fifth of "unencapsulated" bulbs - where a coil is uncovered - emitted UV radiation from a group of 20 encapsulated and 53 unencapsuled bulbs.

Their tests showed that people could be exposed to considerable amounts of UV light, and as a result the HPA has published guidelines about the issue.

They warn that peole should not use unencapsulated light bulbs at distances nearer than 30cms for over an hour daily.

"We are not saying these could cause cancer," said HPA chief executive Justin McCracken said.

He added that the "worst effect" that people could have was "short-term reddening of the skin".

The HPA have said the European Union and the companies which make the bulbs should impose rules for their production and set safety guidelines.

Professor Harry Moseley, Consultant Clinical Scientist at the University of Dundee, said: "We are concerned about risks to patients who have severe light-sensitive skin disorders.

"The small levels of ultra-violet emitted by some low energy light bulbs could be harmful to these patients. I recommend use of lights with a protective shield to absorb the UV."

 

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