Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Sunday, 11 January 2009

Man's fear over light bulb change

Adrian Nielsen

All of sudden, and I'm not really sure over what time period it was, my eyes were getting watery
Adrian Nielsen

A man who claims low energy light bulbs leave his eyes severely irritated is worried about phasing out older bulbs.

Adrian Nielsen, 63, from Swansea, says his eyes became bloodshot, watery and uncomfortable after fitting energy-efficient bulbs throughout his home.

He fears other people could have similar problems.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was looking into "anecdotal evidence" about adverse reactions.

Retailers have agreed to phase out the incandescent bulbs by 2012 in favour of more energy-efficient bulbs - ahead of the EU mandatory phase out by 2016.

The Migraine Action Association is among those calling for a rethink of the plan and for people to be given a choice.

It says those with the condition can suffer attacks because of a "flicker" in the new fluorescent bulbs which is imperceptible to others.

It is a call company director Mr Neilsen is backing.

He said his eye problems began after fitting the new light bulbs throughout his home.

"All of sudden, and I'm not really sure over what time period it was, my eyes were getting watery," said Mr Neisen, who had laser treatment to correct short sightedness in 2000 but had never had any other problems with his eyes.

"They were very sore and bloodshot. It was to the extent that I was blinking continuously. It was like I had bits of sand in there."

Low energy light bulbs
Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public
Defra

After around six weeks, he went to the doctor, who said he was probably suffering from conjunctivitis.

But despite being given medication, the problem did not go away and after returning to the doctor a week later he was told he could have dry eyes.

The irritation continued until a few days later when he went on holiday.

"All the time we were out in Crete my eyes were absolutely perfect," said Mr Neilsen.

"For them to clear up completely while I was away just did not add up. But when we came back it started again."

He said he came across a newspaper story about a woman who had the same problems until she changed her light bulbs back to the older type.

Mr Neilsen did the same thing.

"Literally within hours my eyes were clear again," he said.

"I had not thought it was the lights.

"Since then I notice what lights people have got.

"In the pub they have them. If I'm in there an hour my eyes start. I've gone to businesses where they have this new lighting and I've sat there and all of a sudden they will go again.

"I think the problem is to do with the pulse that comes out of the fluorescent light."

He added: "Looking long-term if they have these everywhere I've got problems."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said low energy light bulbs are a "great way to help the environment and save money".

She said: "Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public.

"We are aware of some anecdotal evidence that the use of these bulbs could have adverse effects on some people's health and are working with the lighting industry and the Department of Health to resolve these issues.

"It's worth noting that the new generation of energy efficient bulbs operate on a higher frequency than earlier models, which means a constant, flicker-free light."

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