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Health Effects of Artificial Light

7. Are there potential health risks linked to artificial lights?

    All healthy individuals may be at some risk from UV radiation and blue light from indoor lighting, albeit to different degrees due to differences in genetic background and in the type of light source used. Short-term UV effects are negligible and long-term risks can only be estimated. Using worst case scenarios, regular exposure in school and at work to safe lamps with the highest levels of UV emission would add a dose of UV similar to a 3 to 5 days holiday in a sunny location. Most lamps would contribute considerably less.

    As a very rough estimate, 250000 people in the EU have disorders that can be brought on or aggravated by light, and are particularly affected by light sources that emit UV or blue light. For this group of people, double-envelope CFLs is preferable to single-cover ones, and retrofit LEDs may be even better. Irradiation from lamps is highly variable so individuals with photosensitive diseases may need a list of lamp models that are suitable for their specific case.

    Several knowledge gaps have been identified:

    • Manufacturer’s data on the detailed light spectrum from every lamp model.
    • Risk categories for lamps that include long-term risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma
    • Exposure data to UV and blue light from indoor lamps
    • Effect of long-term exposure to artificial light on the retina, including epidemiological studies.
    • Effect of UVC on skin diseases
    • Role of artificial light in the disruption of circadian cycles.
    • Health effects of flicker


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