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Ann Scalapino never leaves home without an incandescent light bulb tucked into her purse. She suffers from migraines that she believes are triggered by fluorescent lights, so when she visits friends who use the energy-efficient bulbs in their homes, she asks them to replace them while she visits.

But now that traditional incandescent light bulbs are being phased out as California leads the nation in adopting stricter energy efficiency standards, Scalapino is one of a committed group of incandescent light bulb lovers who are buying them in droves.

The new federal regulations, which went into effect on Jan. 1 in California, require a traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light using 28 percent less electricity than it did before. Bottom line: the traditional light bulb as we know it will soon be obsolete.

They will be sold as long as existing stocks last.

Migraines are not the only health impact associated with fluorescent lighting. There are concerns that the small amount of mercury in the bulbs or tubes can be released as a vapor if a bulb breaks. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are supposed to be disposed of as toxic waste, but only about 5 percent of consumers do so, said Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council.

Still others, including Linda Berg in Sebastopol, are concerned that flourescent lighting emits a dangerous radio frequency. She said she plans to start a support group for people who are "electrosensitive" and react to cell phones, CFLs or computers with skin issues, fatigue or heart problems.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, introduced light bulb legislation in California that he said paved the way for the federal lighting standards. He thinks concern may be overblown.

"This whole issue is probably a tempest in a teapot, because no one is saying you have to buy fluorescent bulbs," Huffman said. "Anyone who just doesn't like fluorescent lights, or thinks that they're transporting conspiracy signals from the government or whatever, can just buy a different kind of light."

There are alternatives on the market that meet the new efficiency regulations, including halogen incandescent lights, CFLs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

But fluorescent lighting opponents fear that the popular CFLs will proliferate once the old fashioned bulbs are phased out, because they are more efficient than some alternatives and less expensive than LEDs.<NO1><NO>

"It's a documented fact that fluorescents trigger migraines," Scalapino said. "Because it is a fluorescent world, I have to schedule all of my appointments, whether it's a doctor, or physical therapy, or anything I need .<TH>.<TH>. all on the same day."

For Scalapino, the biggest concession she made to fluorescent lighting was to leave her job of 20 years as a teacher after attempting unsuccessfully to have the fluorescent lights in her classroom replaced.<NO1><NO>

About a third of the population experiences mild to moderate symptoms such as headaches and nausea when exposed to radio frequencies emitted from household appliances such as cordless phones, wireless routers, baby monitors and flourescent lighting, said Dr. Magda Havas, an associate professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University. She said a smaller group, between 2 and 3 percent, are extremely sensitive and can pass out from such exposure.

Dr. Allan Bernstein, a neurologist and former director of the Headache Clinic at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, said that nearly one in five women suffer from migraines, and about half of those migraines are triggered by fluorescent lights. He said fewer numbers of men and children, between eight and 10 percent, experience migraines.

Bernstein, who runs a headache support group in Sebastopol, said that migraine sufferers have hyper-sensitive brains that react to odors, altitude, skipping meals and other triggers. Fluorescent lights and some computer screens have a flicker that can trigger migraines, he said.

"I suspect that the new LED lights will do fine, because they don't flicker, but they're very expensive," Bernstein said. "Until you've got those down to a reasonable cost, it's going to be hard to change out in your house, your school or your office."

Marianne Campbell, co-founder and director of New Horizon School and Learning Center in Santa Rosa, said she has been buying as many old-fashioned light bulbs as she can for her private school that caters to students with learning disabilities.

Campbell said she tried fluorescent lighting in the school, but too many students were sensitive to lighting. Instead, they rely on traditional incandescents and the natural sunlight that filters through lace curtains in their school on Third Street.

Campbell said the right lighting can help students with dyslexia who have difficulty distinguishing letters while reading. "What happens is, it becomes distorted even further sometimes, if the lighting is wrong." .

Campbell said she tried halogen bulbs in some rooms, but was told by fire officials to remove them because they posed a fire hazard. She also tried LED lighting, but said it didn't provide the optimal characteristics to help students distinguish words from the page.

"I'm hoarding," Campbell said. "I don't know what we're going to do."

She also said she was concerned that mercury could cause learning disabilities.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, CFLs contain 2 to 5 mg of mercury, while older thermometers contain about 500 mg of mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency offers instructions on how to safely clean up a broken CFL bulb that include evacuating pets, turning off heating and airing out the room for several hours.

Huffman said he was concerned about the mercury in fluorescent lights, but noted the amount is minute.

"It's an essential element of how fluorescent lighting works," Huffman said. "And it's one of the downsides, frankly, and why fluorescent lighting will probably be a bridge technology. Eventually it will give way to LED and other technologies that don't present that downside."

CFLs are popular in part because of their price. A 26-watt CFL, which emits the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt incandescent, sells for about $5 at Target and lasts about 8,000 hours. A pack of four traditional soft-white incandescent 100-watt bulbs costs $4 at Office Max, and those bulbs typically last 750 hours.

By comparison, an 8-watt LED bulb comparable to a traditional 40-watt bulb costs about $18 at Home Depot and lasts 50,000 hours. LEDs to replace 100-watt bulbs are uncommon, said Grafton Withers, chief operating officer of Green Ray LED, a Santa Rosa-based LED lighting designer and maker.

"It costs more up front, but you get a pretty quick payback on your investment," Withers said. "There's no pulsation of light at all. The other advantage of course is they don't have any mercury inside."

Some, like Huffman, that prices will drop on alternatives to the beloved but doomed incandescent.

"This competition is going on out there, and the winner in that is the consumer and the environment," he said.