Tuesday, May 27, 2008

migraineurs and CFLs: a crucial public health issue

I have posted quite a bit around the web on this subject, and even about my personal struggles with fluorescent lighting, but until today, I have not mentioned an important petition regarding migraineurs and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (commonly called CFLs) - at least, until now.

First, some background: in December 2007, the US Congress passed the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007, a comprehensive piece of legislation designed to decrease our country's gobbling-up of energy. Buried in this was a mandate to phase out all incandescent lighting by 2012.

The idea behind this particular piece of the law is that incandescent lighting is incredibly inefficient, and more efficient forms of lighting are already available on the market. By 2012, when US consumers are no longer able to buy regular incandescent bulbs, they will have to buy more efficient forms of lighting, thus reducing our energy consumption even if no one's energy consumption habits change. In other words, if you're one of those people who leaves lights on 15 hours out of the day, by using CFLs instead of incandescents, you'll cut your energy consumption (and electric bill) rather significantly without much effort on your part.

Sounds good, right? It all is - in theory.

Here's the problem. For many migraineurs, myself included, CFLs trigger debilitating migraine attacks. CFLs also have been shown anecdotally to cause health issues for other people, including those with epilepsy and lupus. So while none of us will argue with the importance of being "green", CFLs are not a viable option for us.

Unfortunately, with currently available technology, CFLs are the easiest replacement to make. They are made to fit in traditional lamp sockets and, while more expensive than incandescents, are still in a close enough price range that most consumers will choose these over other options.

Like many other migraineurs, this legislation truly worries me. If 2012 rolls around and incandescent bulbs become unavailable, I will not have many viable options. I can live my life in the dark, I can live by candlelight, or I can invest in significantly more expensive technologies, like light-emitting diodes (LEDs), that are also not ideal for typical household use.

Here's the thing: with the way the law is currently written, none of this is likely to change in the next four years. And that's why the Migraine Disease & Headache Bloggers Association has stepped up and written a petition to Congress.

Instead of outlawing incandescent lighting completely, we are asking Congress to amend their legislation, focusing on energy efficiency standards that all lighting would be required to meet. These standards would allow lighting manufacturers to continue to make incandescent lighting, but require them to find ways to make them more efficient. This would also allow CFLs to stay on the market, as well as encourage other new technologies to develop. By focusing on energy standards rather than specific technologies, the amended law would no longer be a knee-jerk reaction to the green craze. Instead, it would be a future-thinking law that will allow flexibility of technology, while still meeting the intent of the original law.

Migraineurs are not opposed to the use of CFLs - that is, unless we've determined this type of lighting is a trigger and we're being forced to use it in our own home. Many of us are trying to find ways to shrink our carbon footprints. We should not be forced to suffer because of a well-intentioned piece of legislation passed by Congress. This is a national health issue, affecting many of the 36 million American migraineurs. Surely we should have some choice about our home lighting? Surely we should not be completely eliminated from public life because of a lack of knowledge about the health issues associated with CFLs?

I ask all of you to take a minute and sign our petition, which you can find here: protect migraineurs from CFLs. Please pass this along to all those in your life. It's likely some of them are migraineurs, and they may not even know they're affected by CFLs.

For more information about energy efficiency in your own home, please see the US Department of Energy's great website, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In particular, Types of Lighting is an excellent basic overview.

For further reading, please see these posts by my fellow migraine bloggers:
Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

Diana Lee said...

Thank you so much for posting about this! As of this moment, we're up to 112 signatures! I hope we can collect many, many more. :)