Study: Fluorescent Lighting May Increase Eye Disease, Cataracts, Pterygia

AsianScientist (Oct. 25, 2011) – The global trend towards using fluorescent globes instead of incandescent ones as a strategy to beat climate change could be increasing eye disease, according to new research by scientists at The Australian National University.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, has found that fluorescent lighting may cause a 12 percent rise in UV-related eye diseases plus an extra 3,000 cataract cases and 7,500 cases of pterygia in Australia each year.

Lead author Dr. Helen Walls from the National Center for Epidemiology & Population Health at ANU said moves to sustainability and a low-carbon economy had involved a shift toward more energy-efficient lighting.

The shift from incandescent to fluorescent lighting means that more people are now being exposed to ultraviolet radiation, she said, which is compounded by increasing urbanization and greater time spent indoors.

“The safe range of light to avoid exposing the eye to potentially damaging ultraviolet radiation is 2000 to 3500K and greater than 500 nanometers. Some fluorescent lights fall outside this safe range,” Dr. Walls said.

UV radiation has been considered a cause of cataracts and pterygia because the photoreceptors in the retina are susceptible to damage by light, particularly UV light, which can lead to cell death and disease. Cumulative dose is also an important component of UV exposure.

This meant that greater control of UV exposure from fluorescent lights was required, she said.

“The replacement of incandescent lamps with fluorescent lighting will lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gases, however, such shifts may increase the population burden of eye disease,” she said.

Dr. Walls recommends the use of UV filters as a required standard, and the use of warm-white tubes or incandescent bulbs of lower color temperature and longer wave-length light rather than fluorescent lamps.

The article can be found at: Walls HL et al. (2011) Eye Disease Resulting From Increased Use of Fluorescent Lighting as a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy.

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