Friday, 10 October 2008

Seeing The Light

Anyone remember this Reuters press release from March 9th 2007? It said, "BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European homes, offices and streets will have to use energy-efficient lighting by the end of the decade, EU leaders decided on Friday."

The name of the game was efficiency, of course. Being inescapably gripped by the madness of mental enviroism, the meddlesome bods in Brussels just couldn't resist the chance to impose yet more tree-hugging piety on their long suffering citizens. Like biofuel, energy efficient light bulbs were vitally important to the future of ... well, everything, really.

And now look what's happened. Last week, in the "ban the bag" Daily Mail, whose campaign to abolish the plastic bag has imposed mass inconvenience on supermarket shoppers up and down the land, I saw a combination of words that I never expected to see side by side - "harmful biofuels".

But it gets better. Today, most of the papers are featuring this little gem, as reported in the Telegraph: "Energy saving light bulb radiation 'could be harmful'." It turns out that CF bulbs - that's Compact Fluorescent for those of us not well up on enviro-speak - could be kicking out as much UV light (Ultraviolet) as a bright sunny day.

Boffins "don't think" they pose a risk of skin cancer, but then, boffins didn't think the Titanic would sink, either, and were pretty sure biofuel was a good idea before reality and human nature proved their naievety. Apparently, it's not all CF lightbulbs, though. No, it's just the funny shaped ones - you know, the prongs and whorly things that look like electric spaghetti. Those enclosed in an outer globe, that look like real like bulbs, are supposed to be safer.

The trouble seems to be that the things consume much less power (isn't that the idea?) and so don't get as hot as an ordinary incandescent bulb, leading people to bring them nearer to their person when used in reading lamps and desk lights. I can't imagine many people wanting to sit with a light right in front of them unless they have to, no matter how cool it may be, and the unwritten truth of the matter is that people have to - the quality of light these things put out is slightly worse than an ailing glowworm.

Consequently, people are sitting within 30 cms of these CF lights, and are turning red in the face as a result. Not, I hasten to add, as a result of embarassment at being found with one of those ugly, pointless things in their posession, but because they've been getting a tan from it. And that's not good, as this Jan 2007 headline from the Daily Mail shows: "Sunbed skin cancer danger has trebled." The article went on to say "The risk of developing skin cancer from using sunbeds has trebled in just a decade, experts have warned." Ergo, tanning = bad, no matter how it's achieved.

But that's ok, because similar experts today say, "We do not believe that these [CF] lights pose any significant risk in terms of skin cancer. This is precautionary advice and people should not be thinking of removing these energy saving light bulbs from their homes. We are advising people to avoid using the open light bulbs for prolonged close work until the problem is sorted out and to use encapsulated bulbs instead. In other situations, where people are not very likely to be very close to the bulbs for any length of time, all types of compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe to use."

Precautionary, eh? Oh, good, I'm glad about that. Of course, if there wasn't ANY risk, there'd be no need for precautions, would there? I'd suggest some slightly different precautions, myself.

1) Visit nearest shop still so non-PC as to be stocking incandescent bulbs - not all large retailers are massively influenced by hype, and there are still some around.
2) Buy all available incandescent bulbs - you'll be amazed at how cheap they are, compared to CF bulbs.
3) Return home, rip out all CF bulbs and replace with incandescent, remembering to wait until daylight or have a suitable source of light to hand while doing so - you will need to turn the lights off for this!
4) Pull out of Europe with speed, making it quite clear that the EU's head is so far up its collective legislative backside that it couldn't tell the difference between CF lights and incandescent bulbs at 3 cms, let alone 30.

Clear? Good. It's just a precaution, you understand, against the chance that the EU is advised, governed and run by utter morons, but why take the risk? After all, it took 27 of them to change a light bulb - how many will it take to change it back?

Now all we need to do is worry about those rising leccy bills, but I'm working on that...

Billy Seggars.

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