Eco-bulbs not for enlightened optometrists

Already vilified by some as posing a fire risk, eco-bulbs are now being criticised by optometrists for the low levels of light they produce.

The New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO) says good lighting is the best remedy for those with poor eyesight.

National director Lesley Frederikson said members were reporting their patients, especially the elderly, were struggling to read since installing the new energy-efficient bulbs, which are to become compulsory from next year.

"As we age, we need more and better lighting for reading. The eco-bulbs are coiled fluorescent lamps that radiate 75 percent of their light horizontally. When installed in a downlight, or similar fitting, most of the light cannot escape," Dr Frederikson said.

An NZAO study also found that as with people's eyesight, the bulbs' performance went downhill over time, losing about a third of their brightness by the time they expired.

The final complaint involved the bulbs' need to warm up before reaching full brightness.

Dr Frederikson warned against installing the bulbs in hallways where the light would be used only briefly as it might reach just 20 percent of its brightness.

"This can make the risk of tripping and falling much greater."

She said the elderly and those with reduced vision needed options when sorting their lighting.

"It would be a sad irony for many if eco-bulbs saved the planet but we were no longer able to see it."

Research New Zealand last month surveyed 500 people and found 46 percent agreed with banning the old incandescent bulbs while 47 percent were against the Government's decision.

The survey followed reports that government agency Energy Safety had sent a memo to the fire service after receiving reports of the bulbs melting, blowing up and blackening surrounding electrical equipment.

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