Scrapping halogen light bulbs could lead to an increase in migraines if they are replaced with certain LED lamps, Public Health England has warned.
There are concerns that flickering from some LED lights could trigger headaches and migraines in a small proportion of the population, according to Public Health England (PHE).
But a loophole in the ban means migraine sufferers could buy traditional incandescent bulbs from pharmacies on prescription in order to mitigate the risk.
Most halogen bulbs will be phased out from September this year, as well as fluorescent lights from 2023, as part of the Government’s plans to tackle climate change.
John O’Hagan, Head of the Laser and Optical Radiation Dosimetry Group at the PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards said: “Not all LED lighting is of concern and most people are able to use LED lighting without experiencing any adverse health effects.
“Where occupants of environments lit by LEDs experience symptoms such as headaches and migraines, it is often because the LED lights flicker.”
Only some LED lights will flicker, although the effect can also be created when using a dimmer switch, potentially triggering adverse reactions, PHE said.
A study by the European Union, which PHE contributed to, found that the flicker frequencies of most energy saving bulbs means they should not pose a problem.
LED lights will also have to pass tests to ensure they do not flicker at a rate that is likely to induce headaches or migraines.
Migraines affect around 1 in 7 people worldwide, but not all of them will have the same triggers or be impacted by flickering LED lights.
Una Farrell, a spokesperson for charity the Migraine Trust, said it was important that migraine sufferers were given choice over the best lighting for them personally.
“For people with migraines, it’s good to have a choice. It’s a very individual thing, and it affects people differently,” she said.
Peter Hunt, the chief policy officer at the Lighting Industry Association, said: “At the moment, there are no scientific reports that suggest that the existing products that are on the market, lead to health issues.
“But as more evidence appears, we’re very happy to look at it.”
The Government hopes moving to LED lights, which cost more upfront but save substantially on electricity costs, will stop 1.26 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Traditional incandescent bulbs convert only about 5 per cent of the electricity they use to visible light.
Switching to LED lights could save more than £200 on energy bills compared to halogens, according to Compare the Market, and could also help households reach new targets for energy efficiency ratings
A BEIS spokesperson said: “Phasing out old, inefficient halogen bulbs in favour of longer-lasting LED alternatives means less waste, cheaper energy bills and a cleaner future for the UK. However, we will not do so at the cost of people’s health and wellbeing.
“Light sources for photosensitive patients can be sold in pharmacies and other authorised selling points upon presentation of a medical prescription.”