4. Can fluorescent lamps worsen health conditions not related to the skin?
Flicker can induce migrane
Source: Bob Smith
There have been claims that some non-skin conditions are aggravated by
fluorescent lamps. However, such
claims are often not supported by scientific evidence. In some cases,
evidence does show a link between one of the properties of fluorescent
lights and a health condition. The concerns have been attributed to
different characteristics of energy-saving
compact fluorescent lamps
(CFLs), namely flickering and the
electromagnetic fields and blue
light they produce. More research is needed to reach final conclusions
about several of the conditions mentioned below.
Regular or repetitive visual patterns such as bold designs, flashing
or flickering lights trigger seizures in 5 out of 100 epileptic people.
This particular form of epilepsy
is called photosensitive epilepsy. There is no
scientific evidence that fluorescent tubes induce seizures, except for
outdated or faulty, flickering, lamps.
Visual stimuli are linked to
migraine. For instance, high
contrast striped patterns or flickering lights can trigger attacks.
People with migraines and headaches can be particularly sensitive to
light both during and between attacks. There is no scientific evidence
that flicker from
fluorescent lamps aggravates
symptoms. However, some patients report that their migraine is
aggravated by blue light from those lamps.
c) Dyslexia and Irlen-Meares
These learning disabilities result in difficulties
with reading and spelling. Evidence indicates that flicker from
fluorescent lamps is not a problem
as those suffering from this disease have an impaired sensitivity to
flickering and moving visual stimuli. Some patients report that the
condition is aggravated by ultraviolet and blue light emitted by cool
d) Ménière’s disease
This disorder of the inner ear causes
vertigo, hearing loss and ringing
in the ears. The attacks are not related to light conditions but may be
aggravated by flicker. A recommendation for vertigo is to provide an
alternative to fluorescent lighting.
Flickering light has no harmful effects on
HIV-positive people, except those
with retinal damage.
f) Retinal diseases
Blue light can damage the eye, particularly for people with retinal
diseases. There is also some evidence that prolonged exposure to blue
light can make healthy retinas less sensitive to colour. For patients
with such diseases it is therefore recommended to use filters to protect
Although there is no evidence that fluorescent light has any negative
effects on people with autism, an
influence cannot be completely ruled out.
h) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The effects of light on people with this and other related conditions
are contradictory and there is no evidence for a link with fluorescent
Light conditions do not play a role in this disorder that causes
muscle pain and fatigue.
There is no evidence that light conditions have any effects on this
People suffering from
photophobia experience eye
discomfort in bright light. Effects of
CFLs have not been investigated,
but cannot be ruled out.
l) Snow blindness and cataract
Usually, fluorescent light does not cause snow blindness (sunburn of
the eyeball) or cataract. Only some
commercially available CFLs
emitting traces of UVC and
significant amounts of UVB could in
principle cause cataract and snow blindness if positioned at eye level
for an extended period of time. Therefore
fluorescent lamps used for room
illumination cause neither snow blindness nor cataract. This holds for
CFLs, provided that UVC and UVB radiation are adequately filtered out.
m) Electromagnetic hypersensitivity
Some people claim to be very sensitive to
electromagnetic fields generated by
many electrical devices. Symptoms include reddening, tingling and
burning sensations, headache, fatigue, dizziness, concentration
difficulties and nausea. There is no demonstrated relation between the
symptoms of these people and short-term exposure to electromagnetic
fields but there are few studies on the effects of long-term exposure.
CFLs generate electromagnetic
fields but these are much weaker that those generated by other
electric devices. At present, there
is no evidence that electromagnetic fields from CFLs cause any symptoms