Ministries to Warn of Radiation From Fluorescent Bulbs

The Health Ministry and the National Infrastructure Ministry will be publishing safety guidelines for energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs, due to the ultraviolet radiation they emit.

This agreement is expected to enable the National Infrastructure Ministry to proceed with a plan to ban the import of less efficient incandescent bulbs, while allaying public safety concerns.

Several months ago, the Health Ministry published a warning to consumers, stating that coming within 30 centimeters of non-enclosed fluorescent bulbs could expose them to radiation.

Currently, most lightbulbs are incandescents, which emit less radiation but consume a lot of electricity.

Most efficient lightbulbs sold are fluorescents. When the coils are enclosed within a second casing, this blocks the radiation. However, many fluorescents lack such a casing.

The Health Ministry issued its warning on avoiding close proximity with fluorescent bulbs following a study conducted a year and half ago by the UK Health Protection Agency. The study, which tested a variety of energy-saving bulbs, found that close proximity to some for an hour a day were tested. The study found that spending an hour next to some of the bulbs - within 10 centimeters - would expose people to more ultraviolet radiation than recommended.

Following the study, the British agency published recommendations on proper use of fluorescent bulbs, noting that at close distances, some gave off radiation comparable to that from the sun.

After the initial warning was issued, the health and national infrastructure ministries began discussing the matter. Health Ministry representatives said they would not oppose fluorescents, but asked that their packaging bear warnings advising consumers not to sit too close to them. This would not apply to bulbs with radiation-blocking casings.

The National Infrastructure Ministry announcement said the radiation warning would apply to only a small portion of fluorescents.

The Infrastructure Ministry recently announced it will be holding public hearings on a plan to ban the import of incandescent bulbs of more than 60 watts. The plan is set to be approved within the next few months.

Energy-saving fluorescent bulbs use one-quarter of the electricity that incandescent bulbs need, and last eight to ten times as long.