Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Though Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) is boasting about the death of the "famously inefficient 100-watt incandescent bulb" due to the recently passed energy bill (which has efficiency requirements that would, within four or so years, ban present incandescent bulbs in the place of compact florescent bulbs), some Americans with certain conditions skin might not be so well served by a ban of incandescents.

A UK coalition of charities and activists known as Spectrum and the British Association of Dermatologists are pleading with the British government (which has regulations that would seemingly ban incandescents by 2011) to allow incandescent bulbs to be available to people with certain skin conditions. For some, continual exposure to compact florescent lights can be very dangerous--even leading to skin cancer:

Dr Colin Holden, President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: 'It is important that patients with photosensitive skin eruptions are allowed to use lights that don't exacerbate their condition.

'Photosensitive eruptions range from disabling eczema-like reactions, to light sensitivities that can lead to skin cancer. It is essential that such patients are able to protect themselves from specific wavelengths of light emitted by fluorescent bulbs, especially as they are often trapped indoors because they can't venture out in natural sunlight.'

Another UK group is also claiming that compact florescent bulbs can trigger migraines and have other unpleasant consequences for some:

Last year it was claimed that the "green" bulbs can cause people with epilepsy to experience symptoms similar to the early stages of a fit.

There have also been complaints from people with lupus, a chronic immune disease that causes pain and extreme tiredness.

GE is working on a newer incandescent model that would meet future US energy efficiency requirements, so perhaps, for the US at least, some of these concerns (including mercury poisoning) might be made moot.

In any case, these stories do bring into focus an interesting nexus of global environmental aims, governmental requirements, public health, and private well-being. Some of the British activists are asking for incandescents be made available to those afflicted with certain skin conditions; could licenses for "famously inefficient" incandescents be next (especially if GE's new technology doesn't come through)? A black market for light bulbs?