ENERGY saving light bulbs can have toxic effects on householders, it has been claimed.
The bulbs, which will become the standard as incandescent bulbs are phased out from September, have been shown to cause skin disorders.
And the poisonous mercury they contain can lead to even more serious complaints when broken.
New medical evidence has come to light in Britain, as a Europe-wide withdrawal of regular incandescent bulbs looms.
Environment Minister John Gormley had proposed an Irish ban on non-green bulbs, but ditched that plan when the EU scheme was announced.
The dangers have led the British authorities to issue a set of alarming guidelines on the use of the green bulbs.
The instructions to users, published on a British government website, warn that anyone who breaks a low-energy bulb should leave the room immediately.
The British environment department website states that after breaking a bulb, people should: "vacate the room and ventilate it for at least 15 minutes. Do not use a vacuum cleaner but clean up using rubber gloves and aim to avoid creating and inhaling airborne dust". Exposure to mercury at high levels leads to itching, burning, skin inflammation, kidney problems and insomnia.
Meanwhile, doctors there have reported that scores of people are coming forward with skin complaints because of the ultra-violet light emitted.
Under the new EU rules, old incandescent bulbs will all have to be phased out by 2012.
There are also fears that when the redundant bulbs are sent to landfill they will create another environmental hazard.
The green bulbs save energy by producing far less heat to create light than incandescent ones.
The most common type of low-energy bulb, CFLs, last up to 15 times longer.
But British experts have claimed that the government there has not done enough to warn people of their dangers.
The phasing out will begin in September, later than the Green Party's original plan for an Irish ban, but will have the same result.
Minister Gormley had to change tack because his scheme could well have fallen foul of EU regulations.
The availability of incandescent bulbs in the north would also have caused problems.