Lampes fluorescentes

Compact fluorescent lamps

Analysis of electromagnetic fields associated with compact fluorescent lamps

The European Parliament Directive (2005/32/EC) on ecodesign requirements for energy-using products provides for improvement of the energy performance of certain consumer products. Electric lighting falls within the scope of the Directive and incandescent lamps for domestic lighting are therefore to be gradually phased out between 2009 and 2017. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), also known as “energy-saving lamps”, or other more energy-efficient sources of lighting such as LED lamps may in time replace these older products. In this regard, the Agency was approached by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) in 2008 and by the Ministries for Consumer Affairs, Health and the Environment in 2011, and asked to assess human exposure to the electromagnetic fields emitted by these lamps.

In August and September 2007, the French Centre for Independent Research and Information on Electromagnetic Radiation (CRIIREM) published two alarming press releases on the electromagnetic radiation generated by energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Earlier studies, specifically those carried out on these products in 2004 by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, had not demonstrated any electromagnetic field values above the exposure limit values recommended by the European Union. 

In response to a request from ADEME in 2008, the Agency published a report in February 2009 presenting an analysis of the existing relevant methodologies for measuring electromagnetic fields emitted by compact fluorescent lamps. It proposed a simple yet rigorous measurement solution for conducting a one-time campaign to assess exposure to these fields at a distance of more than 30 cm from these lamps. Lamp measurement campaigns were then conducted by the French Scientific and Technical Centre for Building (CSTB).

In January 2011, the French Consumer Safety Commission (CSC) issued an Opinion (in French) on compact fluorescent lamps in which it advised consumers to avoid prolonged exposure to these lamps within a radius that it set at a minimum distance of 30 cm. It stated that patients with implantable medical devices and electronic prosthetics should take care to adhere to this recommendation, because of a risk that the electromagnetic fields generated by these lamps could disrupt the functioning of these devices.

The Agency’s work 

At the request of the Swiss government, the IT’IS Foundation (1)  conducted a study  on electromagnetic fields emitted by lamps (in French), using innovative measurement techniques. This study characterised the exposure to electromagnetic fields at a distance of less than 30 cm from the lamps. These tests showed that the exposure limits are respected within this zone, although there were large differences between the various samples tested.

In response to the request from the Ministries for Consumer Affairs, Health, and the Environment, the Agency published an Opinion and a Report in June 2013. This presents an analysis of the existing relevant methods for measuring the electromagnetic fields generated by CFLs, mainly within a 30 cm radius of the lamps. 

In its Opinion, the Agency mentioned the new provisions recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which in 2010 published new guidelines for the frequency range 1 Hz – 100 kHz.

Based on its analysis of the measurement method proposed by IT’IS, ANSES produced recommendations in its Opinion for adapting this method with a view to conducting measurement campaigns. Moreover, given that the IT’IS measurement campaign on a small number of lamps revealed exposure levels for short distances that were close to the limits recommended by the ICNIRP, the Agency recommends, pending the results of future campaigns, limiting exposure to compact fluorescent lamps at a distance of less than 30 cm.

Finally, ANSES recommends that the current regulations on exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields emitted by equipment used in telecommunication networks or radio installations (Decree No. 2002-775 of 3 May 2002) be extended to other sources of artificial emissions of non-ionising radiation (from 0 to 300 GHz) and to compact fluorescent lamps in particular.

(1) The IT’IS Foundation is a non-profit research institute "dedicated to expanding the scientific basis of the safe and beneficial application of electromagnetic energy in health and information technologies ”.