Government always has been pretty good in handling blunt, simple tasks: bombing cities into ruins, for instance. But if any nuance or sophistication is required, it’s best not to call in the public sector.
One of the latest panaceas for gloal warming is banning the common light-bulb. But it turns out that doing so will have a significant adverse health impact on some people.
The process of phasing out the conventional pear-shaped “incandescent” bulbs and replacing them with more energy-efficient fluorescent models begins this month and is due to be completed by 2011 as part of the UK’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
But Professor John Hawk, dermatology spokesman for the British Skin Foundation, warned that the new-style bulbs will cause problems for people with light-sensitive skin, some of whom are already unable to spend time in buildings with fluorescent strip lighting, like factories and hospitals.
Prof Hawk told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Fluorescent lights seem to have some sort of ionising characteristic where they affect the air around them. This does affect a certain number of people, probably tens of thousands of people in Britain, who are flared up just by being close to them.
“Certain forms of eczema – some of which are very common – do flare up badly anywhere near fluorescent lights, so these people have to just be around incandescent lights.”
A much smaller number of patients with very severe light sensitivity are unable to tolerate exposure to the small amount of ultra-violet light given off by the new-style bulbs, he added.
There are a “significant number” of people in the UK who are already unable to visit or work in buildings with fluorescent lighting, said Prof Hawk, adding: “It is people who will have to be exposed to them in their homes that we are worried for, and I very strongly suggest that incandescent bulbs remain available for use in the home.”