1st Apr 2023

Consumer groups mixed on EU switch to new light bulbs

Leading consumer groups have voiced disapproval over the full switch-over to new energy-efficient light bulbs, due to take place across the EU from next week.

From Tuesday (1 September), 100-watt versions of classic, incandescent bulbs will be banned from shops in the 27 EU member states in the first phase of a process that will take several years. The most widely used bulbs, the 40-watt and 25-watt versions, will disappear in 2012 while all energy-inefficient bulbs will be removed by 2016.

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  • Consumer groups hailed the financial benefits of new light bulbs but warned of health risks involved (Photo: European Commission)

The move comes as a result of a decision by EU leaders in March 2007. The European Commission estimates that some 40 terawatt hours of energy per year could be saved once the switch-over is completed.

New light bulbs last eight to 15 times longer and can save up to 80 percent of the energy used on lighting in Europeans' homes, reducing their bills, as well as helping in the fight against climate change.

Consumer groups have hailed the financial and environment benefits of the gradual phase-out but also warn of drawbacks, such as the absence of provisions for people with health problems, including light sensitivity.

"We call on the European Commission to take immediate measures to ensure that people who rely on incandescent light bulbs will be able to buy these bulbs until suitable alternative lighting technologies are available," BEUC, the Brussels-based European consumers' rights organisation, said in a statement.

The group also pointed to concerns about the health risks from the high mercury content of the new bulbs.

"We urge the commission to lower the limit values for mercury and to introduce a better recycling system. Although the current threshold is set at 5 mg of mercury per bulb, the best available technology enables the bulb to work with only 1-2 mg," Stephen Russell from ANEC, the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation, said.

A recent survey among Austrians showed the real affect of consumer fears about the new technology bulbs.

In a poll by UFH, a Vienna-based firm that disposes of used electronic devices, released on Thursday (27 August), 64 percent of respondents said the new EU guideline phasing out classic light bulbs was nonsensical, Wiener Zeitung reported.

Over a half of Austrian interviewees (60.4%) said they were poorly informed about energy-saving bulbs while 43 percent said the new bulbs lacked variety in terms of design and size.

Some 53.6 percent of respondents said they feared the breaking of one of the new bulbs could threaten their health because of mercury contamination.

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