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Green Floursecent Lights v. Migraines

In the Fervor to be Green and Do Your bit to Stop Climate Change Morality Play that is Contemporary Life (or how to be a good little Green who will go to Arcadia when you Die), the BBC has published an article today on “The Bulb Hoarders“. Horrors.

“The government (UK) wants your old-fashioned energy-hungry incandescent tungsten light bulb gone, and gone soon. But some people are willing to go to great lengths to hang onto the lights they love.
Incandescent bulbs – that’s the traditional kind to you or me – waste 95% of the energy they use, according to Greenpeace. They calculate that phasing them out in the UK will save more than five million tonnes in CO2 emissions a year.
And yet some households are so attached to them that they not only keep buying them – they’re stockpiling them ahead of the day when they’re no longer available.
In September last year, the UK government made a deal with major shops for the supply of traditional bulbs to be turned off. Some higher energy bulbs will be gone by January 2009, and all incandescent lights will be off by 2011.
The agreement is voluntary, but other countries have announced legal bans, including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the US. “

Ok, so the British government has legislated that CFL bulbs are to be sold and that energy hogging incandescent bulbs are to be banned and taken off the shelf. Sounds reasonable right? ((cough cough cough…nanny state… cough cough cough))
But isn’t life a give and take? Many of the folks interviewed for the BBC article and who commented think so.


If I drive a Prius, then shouldn’t I be able to curb the onset of migraines by using 60 watt incandescent light bulbs at home? I live in California, I don’t run my heater, nor do I have A/C at my house, and our electricity comes from hydro-electric stations & nuclear rather than coal. Ok, we do have one coal powered electric plant in the area, moth-balled until President G.W. Bush’s peeps brought it back online. But that is one of his minor sins, if we are going to list them…

“Are they not concerned about the environmental impact of incandescent bulbs? “I do my bit,” says Bradley. “Recycling and all that. But at the end of the day, if they want us to use those bulbs they’ll have to make them better.”
“And anyway,” he adds, “they’ve got mercury in, haven’t they, these so-called green bulbs? What’s that going to do to the environment?”
Government advice says that because of the mercury in low energy bulbs, if you break one you should leave the room for 15 minutes, clear up the pieces with rubber gloves, not with a vacuum cleaner, and take them in a sealed bag to your local council. The bulbs should not be thrown in normal waste.”

Now the BBC’s Steve Tomkins (wonder if he is any relation of our Simon?) seems on one hand to be taking the Orthodox Green Position on this, but then is on the sly taking the piss out of the Orthodox Greens with nice little statements about the mercury content in the CFLs and how one can’t hoover them up (see above).
A commenter to the article, Daniel Walker of Stirling, states:

“The so-called improved CFLs do not illuminate higher-ceilinged traditional domestic properties adequately. They do not suit traditional light fittings. They appear dim and have no equivalent to 150 & 200w bulbs which are necessary to illuminate older properties. The mercury content is of real concern in CFLs. We only use CFLs at home for cupboard lights as cosmetically, they are horrible – and don’t light up the cupboard either. Much more development is required before the nanny state in this country imposes yet another restriction on its citizens.”

Save the environment, check. CFLs use less energy, check. CFLs contain environmentally and people unfriendly mercury, check. CFLs may help climate change but will damage the ecosystem with mercury, check.
Now what I have always disliked about fluorescent lights is that they are one of my prime migraine headache triggers (it has to do with the cycling/flickering of fluorescent lights are incompatible with some human brains, like mine) along with a few food allergies. I had one job where I had to be moved next to a window and switch my desk light to an incandescent bulb to keep from having to leave work several times a weekfrom debilitating migraines. I can’t go into a room lit with fluorescent lights (compact CFLs or regular fluorescents) and stay for long without a migraine threatening, unless natural sunlight is coming through a near by window.
The BBC article does address the very real concern of migraine sufferers in one paragraph:

“The Migraine Action Association has raised another health concern. The group reports that members have found that low energy bulbs seem to increase migraine attacks.
For most stockpilers though, the concerns seem to be more aesthetic than safety-conscious.”

My local Apple Store has become completely off limits ever since they made the walls a reflective grey, lowered the ceilings and went to completely to banks of standard, flickering, buzzing fluorescent lights. Last time I had to take my computer into the Genius Bar, I had to wear my sunglasses and shade my eyes from the top with my hand, and go in quick & get out quick, then go home and take my prescription strength migraine meds.
I asked the Genius looking at my MacBook how did anyone stand the lighting and he told me that it didn’t bother him, but he had customers run out and has heard people say that they can’t go into the store due to the horrible fluorescent lighting and low ceilings.
Way to alienate customers and save energy at the same time!
While I prefer the soft yellow light of incandescent bulbs, I will also start hoarding my beloved non-migraine inducing 60 watt incandescent bulbs if the US bans them in favor of fluorescent lighting. I can’t live my whole life with sunglasses and a visor on with my $120 for nine doses of Maxalt migraine meds, of which I can’t drive or work after taking due to being curled up in a groggy little painful ball on my bed.
Dear U.S. legislators, rather than going of the Nanny State route of your UK compatriots, please give me a choice. I will drive less, turn off my incandescent bulbs unless I am in the room & it is dead dark, open my fridge only when absolutely necessary, but please don’t make all of us switch to the evil fluorescent.
Even if you don’t give a flying ____ about people who get migraines triggered by fluorescents, think of the fishes, lakes, and oceans, they really don’t need anymore mercury… Rather than knee jerk reactionary policies, let’s all work together to make green, environmentally friendly policies that work for everyone.