It’s hard to envision myself ever being on the same side of an issue with Tea Party supporters. However, I too am glad to see that the impending ban on incandescent light bulbs, at least here in the United States, has been put on hold. A mid-December concession in the battle to pass a new budget saw the ban on 100-watt incandescent bulbs (that was supposed to begin in January) delayed until October of 2012.

Of course the political arguments against such a ban center on economic issues, jobs and the involvement of the major light bulb manufacturers (and their political interests). Those of us who are actually concerned about the environment, myself included, rarely factor into such “politics-as-usual” debates.

So, why am I glad to see the ban delayed and hoping to see it lifted entirely? Health issues.
Studies estimate that nearly one-quarter of the population, with varying degrees of light sensitivity (photophobia), may suffer negative physical effects if this ban becomes a reality. For this portion of the population, the most commonly found alternative, fluorescent lights (particularly the CFLs), may triggers headaches, migraines, stomachaches, fatigue, eye strain, anxiety, and irritability. Fluorescent lights can also negatively impact the immune system, literally making people sick.

  • According to a November 2011 edition of the Vancouver Sun, a study from Natural Resources Canada revealed that fluorescent lights could intensify light sensitivity, a trigger of migraines for some individuals.
  • A study by the UK Migraine Action Association (2007) found that fluorescent lights cause nausea, dizziness, and even physical pain for those suffering with lupus.
  • Here in the United States, concern about the affects fluorescent lighting prompted the state of California to make accommodations available for students with light sensitivity, allowing them to take tests in rooms that do not have fluorescent lights.
  • And a posting on may have summed it all up: “I wear a visor and wrap around sunglasses in church, malls and in friends homes. The new light bulbs are killing me.”

The Irlen Institute, which has 148 clinics in 54 countries, typically works to identify children and adults who struggle to read due to a visual processing disorder called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, widely known as Irlen Syndrome. However, while working to identify and counter Irlen Syndrome through the use of specially made colored lenses, Irlen clinics were surprised by an influx of hundreds of thousands of children and adults with light sensitivity, all of whom reported physical symptoms triggered by ongoing exposure to florescent lights. They were looking for relief from their symptoms.

Yet, despite the boon in business, Helen Irlen, a PPS Credentialed School Psychologist and Educational Therapist, came out vehemently against such a ban on incandescent bulbs. “How can the government step in and make life more difficult for so many people by limiting them to such (CFL) bulbs in their own homes? It’s like taking the elevators out of buildings in which people have serious trouble climbing stairs,” stated Irlen, who posted a petition form on her website,, opposing the light bulb ban. The petition gained over 8,000 supporters.

Yes, there are other alternatives to CFLs, but they are pricey and harder to find. The public should not be limited by the government in their choice of light bulbs, especially when there are such negative affects due to the most common alternative to incandescent bulbs.

“Energy conservation is an important goal that we should all strive to achieve, but there are ways to conserve energy that do not potentially hurt 25% of the population,” says Helen Irlen, and I most certainly agree.

Rich Mintzer is a journalist and author, or ghostwriter, of over 60 published non-fiction books. His books include 1010 Ways to Turn Your Business Green and Start Your Own Green Business for Entrepreneur Press. He also worked with Helen Irlen on her book The Irlen Revolution, where he learned more about the pending light bulb ban, which he followed-up with his own research. Visit his website here.

Editors Note: Comments from the industry have been brought to Breaking Energy’s attention in response to this contributed post. To clarify, implementation of the law that underpins new lighting standards has been delayed, but the law itself remains in effect. Companies are still following the letter of the original law and planning to meet the new targets, Breaking Energy has been told.