Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Saturday, 24 January 2009

Sight fears over low-energy bulbs

Traditional and energy efficient light bulbs
Traditional light bulbs are being phased out in favour of energy-efficient ones

Charities and eyesight specialists are calling on the government to halt its plans to phase out the sale of traditional light bulbs.

Campaigners want retailers to disregard a promise to phase out the incandescent bulbs by 2012.

They say replacement lower energy bulbs do not provide enough light, causing problems for people with poor vision.

The government admitted there was a problem but said that alternatives were still available.

'Difficulties'

Under European Union rules, all incandescent bulbs for sale must be replaced by energy efficient compact fluorescent lamp (Cfl) bulbs by 2016.

By September 100 watt bulbs will have been taken off UK shelves.

But David Adams, spokesman for The Royal National College for the Blind, said lower energy bulbs made things more difficult for those with a sight condition.

He said: "They do come on slowly and if there are steps or objects in the way, people can fall over, have accidents and that's the biggest danger."

He said most blind people did not have a total loss of vision and therefore would want to make the best of the amount they had left.

Greenpeace has said that the traditional bulbs waste 95% of the energy they use.

If I try to read a book under one of the new lights - I just can't read properly for long because the light levels are just not high enough
John Clingan

They calculated that phasing them out in the UK would save more than five million tonnes in CO2 emissions a year.

The compact fluorescent lamp bulbs have 80% less power and provide a diffused light whereas the traditional bulbs give out spots of light and have a high contrast.

John Clingan, who is partially-sighted, said he was concerned about how he would cope without the stronger light.

He said: "If I try to read a book under one of the new lights - I just can't read properly for long because the light levels are just not high enough."

Larry Benjamin, of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said the situation needed fixing:

"Incandescent bulbs give a general bright lighting source and the worry is that if they disappear, patients won't be able to have the same level of lighting in their homes.

'Alternatives'

"There's quite good evidence that low lighting can lead to a greater number of falls in people with low vision. So it is quite important."

There have been reports of people stockpiling the traditional bulbs.

Jane Milne from the British Retail Consortium said shops would continue to offer consumers a choice.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said alternatives were available.

She said: "We recognise that compact fluorescent lamps do not offer the same 'contrast' that incandescent lamps offer as they give off diffused light.

"To address these concerns halogen lamps, which do provide contrast lighting, will remain on the market.

"These offer 30-45% energy savings in comparison to incandescent lamps."

She said that the price of the bulbs will come down and the technology will improve.



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