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Energy-Saving Lamps & Health

4. Can fluorescent lamps worsen health conditions not related to the skin?

    Flicker can induce migrane
    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 ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic fields and blue light they produce. More research is needed to reach final conclusions about several of the conditions mentioned below.

    a) Epilepsy

    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 There is no scientific evidence that fluorescent tubes induce seizures, except for outdated or faulty, flickering, lamps. More ...

    b) Migraine

    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. More ...

    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 white tubes. More ...

    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.

    e) HIV/AIDS

    Flickering light has no harmful effects on HIV-positive people, except those with retinal damage. More ...

    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 lens and retina. More ...

    g) Autism

    Although there is no evidence that fluorescent light has any negative effects on people with autism, an influence cannot be completely ruled out. More ...

    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 lighting. More ...

    i) Fibromyalgia

    Light conditions do not play a role in this disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue. More ...

    j) Dyspraxia

    There is no evidence that light conditions have any effects on this coordination disorder. More ...

    k) Photophobia

    People suffering from photophobia experience eye discomfort in bright light. Effects of CFLs have not been investigated, but cannot be ruled out. More ...

    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. More ...

    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 or diseases. More ...

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