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Eye Disease Resulting From Increased Use of Fluorescent Lighting as a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy

Increased use of fluorescent lighting as a climate change mitigation strategy may increase eye disease. The safe range of light to avoid exposing the eye to potentially damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation is 2000 to 3500K and greater than 500 nanometers. Some fluorescent lights fall outside this safe range.

Fluorescent lighting may increase UV-related eye diseases by up to 12% and, according to our calculations, may cause an additional 3000 cases of cataracts and 7500 cases of pterygia annually in Australia.

Greater control of UV exposure from fluorescent lights is required. This may be of particular concern for aging populations in developed countries and countries in northern latitudes where there is a greater dependence on artificial lighting.

CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION will involve numerous changes in the use of technology. Many people worldwide are exposed to artificial light sources both in the home and in the workplace. Until recently, this mainly entailed exposure to incandescent lights and, less frequently, to fluorescent lighting. Moves to sustainability and a low-carbon economy have involved the phasing out of incandescent lights and a shift toward more energy-efficient lighting in a number of countries, including Australia and the countries of the European Union.1,2 In the United States, federal law stipulates that incandescent lights be phased out by 2014.3

Globally, increasing numbers of workers spend their work time in buildings rather than in fields or other outside locations and are thus, regularly and for extended periods, exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation via fluorescent lighting. This increase is partly due to rapid urbanization and the increasingly knowledge-based society (attracting workers into offices) in which we live. Although fluorescent lighting has been used in schools and offices for many years, only in recent years has it dominated UV exposure in the home, and it will continue to do so in future years.

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