Low-energy light bulbs can cause rashes and swelling to sensitive skin, warn experts

The Daily Mail | March 14, 2009
By David Derbyshire

The phasing out of traditional light bulbs could cause misery for thousands who have light-sensitive skin disorders, medical experts warned yesterday.

Dr Robert Sarkany said some low-energy bulbs gave vulnerable people painful rashes and swelling.

He backed calls by patient groups for the Government to give medical exemptions for those at risk.

The warning comes as British shops start to clear their shelves of traditional bulbs, which are being replaced by more energy-efficient versions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Large retailers have already stopped selling conventional 100-watt bulbs, the most popular size.

They will be banned from September along with frosted 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs, followed by most others before 2012.

Shoppers will then be able to buy only halogen bulbs - which resemble normal bulbs but use 70 per cent of the energy - or compact fluorescent ones, which use just 30 per cent of the energy.

Although low-energy bulbs cut household electricity bills, the move has proved unpopular with shoppers.

Halogens are more expensive - costing around £1.99 each - while critics say the fluorescent type have an unattractive harsh light and take up to a minute to warm up to full strength. 
But medical charities say the light from low-energy bulbs triggers migraines, epilepsy and rashes.

Dr Sarkany, a photodermatologist at St John's Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas' Hospital, in London, said he has treated patients for rashes caused by exposure to low-energy lamps.

Some suffer from lupus, a disease of the immune system that can cause skin to become hypersensitive to sunlight.

But Dr Sarkany said lupus sufferers were also reporting an adverse reaction to fluorescent lights.

He added: 'Patients with lupus feel strongly about this. They feel their skin deteriorates with fluorescent lights and have taken this issue to Parliament.'

A spokesman for Skin Care Campaign said: 'The main concern is over the intensity of the ultraviolet light from low-energy bulbs.

'Particularly for people with skin conditions such as lupus, eczema and psoriasis, it causes a lot of problem with burning.

'There are also more unusual conditions where people are completely light-sensitive. 
'At the moment, they can use a traditional incandescent light bulb because the ultraviolet light is so dim.

'But low-energy fluorescent lights are a problem.'