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Let there be non-incandescent light!

You...light up my life...
You…light up my life…



With the ring-in of the New Year brings changes to a lot more than just people…laws.

One such Canadian law came into effect as of today…Let me illuminate the story:


“The Conservative government announced an aggressive plan in 2007 that would effectively remove most incandescent bulbs from retail shelves in favour of more expensive alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.”

Incandescent light bulb ban starts Jan. 1, 2014

So what.

So……..are you afflicted with a condition that also puts photo-sensitivity in your repertoire of illness(es)?

I am.

Having Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, I had myself a gander at the impact of using CFL and LED lighting in my home. I wanted to know if there’s anything I should be aware of because, frankly, any great length of time spent in a department store or a shopping mall sometimes leaves me itchy. I know from working in a small law office the effects of the lighting on my increase in headaches and general skin malaise.

I found a couple of links to share with you so that you can make your own decisions on what works for you, or at the very least, provides you with a base upon which to further research the effects of each.

I limited my search to skin photo-sensitivity simply because…well…because that’s what I was looking for. If I find something to eliminate/reduce skin afflictions, naturally the reduction should also work for any eye/head issues.

“Dammit, Jim…I’m a regular person, not a scientist!”

CFL’S: Have a read through (or scroll down) the article…there is a plethora of skin and systemic conditions for which photo-sensitivity has a factor.

Energy-Saving Lamps and Health

It does specifically address SLE, and I will save you some effort and highlight the section:

“ Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease that is often exacerbated by sunlight exposure. Its prevalence is estimated at 27.7 per 100,000 of the general population with a much higher prevalence reported for females of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity (Hopkinson et al. 1993, Johnson et al. 1995). Some patients do describe artificial light causing problems. Provoking wavelengths seem to be predominantly in the UVB extending into UVA2. A range of skin presentations include butterfly rash, a polymorphic light eruption presentation and lupus erythematosus tumidus are examples.


Through their UV component, chronic exposure to CFL could possibly be a problem. Systemic lupus is an important condition in that skin flares can be associated with internal disease activity [Evidence level C].”

I learned something. I’d had no idea it was the UV rays that were contributing to the photo-sensitivity. Obviously, I *get* that the sun gives off UVA and UVB radiation…what I didn’t understand was that it was available in some kinds of light bulbs.

“Dammit, Jim…I’m a regular person, not a light bulb specialist!”

I was able to also find an article by the European Commission on the:

Health Effects of Artificial Light

Again, there is a plethora of conditions in which photo-sensitivity is indicated.

Again, there is also a section specifically mentioning Lupus Erythematosus:

“It is possible that some severely affected patients may be provoked by UVA emitting low energy artificial light sources. Lupus erythematosus (LE) Lupus erythematosus is an uncommon clinically significant group of closely related auto immune diseases that involve the skin. They affect all age groups in both sexes and are made up of four recognised sub types:

1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most serious and potentially lethal form which affects both the skin and systemic organs.

2. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE).

3. Chronic discoid lupus erythematosus (CDLE).

4. Lupuserythematosus tumidus (LET).

There is no doubt that UV exposure plays an important induction or aggravation role in all LE sub types. This field has been extensively reviewed (Hasan et al. 1997, Kuhn et al. 2006, Millard et al. 2000). Many LE patients may not be aware of their photosensitivity.

The article continues to look at the response of patients to various UV ray types and does outline the concept that each person, being an individual, can have a different reaction from those others with the same condition.

To this extent, their conclusion is summed up as:


It seems reasonable to assume that at least some LE patients, and particularly those with SLE, are at risk from chronic UV exposure from some low energy emitting lamps such as CFLs and unfiltered halogen bulbs. In this context it is noted that LE support groups are already advising the use of double rather than single envelope CFLs.”

Huhn. Something to think about.

Well, what about LED’s, then?

I took a a part from the above mentioned article from the European Commission:

“What is clear from the clinic is that there is a wide range of individual disease severity with differing amounts of UV being required to provoke lesions in patients. It is also evident in this particularly susceptible group that the main concern with the change from the use of incandescent to low energy light sources relates to the UV content of CFLs. Newer LED illumination lamps do not emit in the UV region and are therefore not such an issue for these UV sensitive patients. This explains the CFL emphasis of this section.”

I…am…not so sure about that.

But, with enough looking, I came across a validation that yes, LED’s do produce a small amount of UV radiation…but that they emit even less.

Lighting and UV radiation: Where do LED’s fit in?

*Interesting to note in the article was the use of LED lighting in museums to counter any potential damage to the gallery contents due to constant UV emissions from CFL’s

While I looooooooooove my incandescent bulbs for their natural, less “buzzy” looking/feeling colour…the industry has been adding “Soft White” to their repertoires of bulbs.

If you, or someone you know, suffers from photo-sensitivity, I would encourage you to do some research of your own and find the best option available for your condition(s).

As always, if you have a useful resource or link, feel free to share!

Knowledge is power…to illuminate our understanding of how we can  help each other to help ourselves. 🙂




  1. Jamie

    How do u suggest one approaches their company..I started a new job this week and noticed after one day I had issues..I an so scared to say something

    • Brynn

      Hi, Jamie!! YAY! on the new job…BOO on the issues!! I will put it out to the LI community and see what other people have done in their workplace…what kind of work do you do?

  2. Flo Fflach

    this is the advice from eclipse – UK SLE & photosensitivity
    they recommend incandescent bulbs.
    From personal experience halogen [a lot of people have these annoying little lights in their houses] and fluorescent tubing is the worse. but some low energy light bulbs cause me problems, especially daylight ones when brand new and bright. LED seems to be heading towards being a good option.
    I thought I was getting a little less sensitive during the last 10 days – red faced today. oh well more wrap up cover up. I tried to avoid the fluorescent tubes today that I was near for 1 hour…. then there was the unusual sun! Let some bits of my face be bare, well with spf50!!

    • Brynn

      While LED lighting seems to still be considered the safest form of lighting for patients with photosensitivity, there will always exist a risk. For example, in the study here: it was determined that one patient out of 101 displayed positive photodermatoses reaction(s). It seems that in any studies, the focus is on the UV radiation emitted from low-energy and cost-saving lighting methods and its impact/reaction upon people with conditions that contain photosensitivity. Yet, as can be seen by the comment below (Jeff), there are patients still experiencing positive photodermatological reactions to LED lighting. Perhaps there needs to be more study on what else could cause similar reactions. As always, funding for study will be our biggest stepping stones.

  3. Jeff

    I have lupus and LED lights affect me. I can barely sit in front of the new LED screen laptops at work and the daylight LED lights for home burn my skin. I have no idea how this is happening but know that it is.

    Has anyone else had this issue?

    • Brynn

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are experiencing dermatoses from LED lights, Jeff. I’ve posted your question on the Lupus Interrupted Facebook page, to see if anyone else has experienced such a difficult situation. As I’m sure you know, LED lighting has been touted as a “safe alternative” to other forms of UV-emitting types of lighting, but that certainly shouldn’t suggest that NO one will react to it. Because LED lighting does not emit the UV radiation that causes photodermatoses in many lupus patients, I wonder, then, what other factor of the light is causing the reaction on the skin…perhaps a coating on the diode system…it would be so helpful for more studies to be done! I will keep you posted!

  4. flo fflach

    I have heard somewhere – maybe through Eclipse, that some people are reacting to the blue spectrum, so LED lights especially those aimed at reproducing daylight. I haven’t experienced this.
    If I can dig it out, there is an online article suggesting that museums shouldn’t be using LEDs [lost my favourites when compter stopped working] have found this one that says the sort of LAD lighting is important referencing blue – of course they sell the non blue LEDs

  5. Cherry Snow

    Hi- I have SLE and severe issues with light, so this has been a focus of my personal research. It’s a complicated subject, rife with jargon, but I will try to frame this simply: The brighter blue/white light (higher degrees Kelvin) is associated with the UVB/UVC radiation that is most damaging. Life has evolved under the sun, thus our perception of light triggers a cascade of physiological responses– even if the actual radiation is much less or not present at all. Therefore, fluorescents not only give off UVB, causing direct damage, our awareness of it is stressful as well. So regardless of LED UV output, that colder light ‘temperature’ can have potentially negative effects.

    You can research LED light therapy for skin- red/blue/green- and get a good idea of how real the effects are. Generally speaking, that range is over a 100 nanometers above the UV field, so lupus sufferers shouldn’t have much issue (with limited exposure). I use it myself, for acne and inflammation.

    Then have a look at UV-A therapy. I’ll link an article in the website column below, but there is a good deal of speculation and non-expert trials along with the published studies. The high pressure sodium lamps used for that intensive treatment are extremely pricey, but there is a lower key option: lizard lights.

    Basking lamps for reptiles specifically give off only UV-A. If you look for these products, take care to check that you are getting that kind, not a mixed type. They don’t have a great lifespan, but for specific lighting solutions, like desk lamps or other areas needing direct, focused light, those can be beneficial.

    If all of this is too much to consider, which I completely understand, opt for incandescents. Generally speaking, they don’t give off UV-B/C. For physical comfort and peace of mind, stick to ‘soft white’ in most settings, and use the broad spectrum or ‘daylight’ bulbs only when needed; the bathroom, etc.

    Should all else fail, there’s always the time honored teenage ambience of Christmas lights… Happy Holidays!

    • Brynn

      This. Is. Exemplary. I cannot thank you enough for sharing with my readers and followers your input and findings for this ridiculously frustrating issue that many of us experience!!! THANK YOU, Cherry 😉 And a festive holiday season to you and yours, from me and mine! HUGS!

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