Sunday, November 16, 2008

Concerns Over Dangers of CFL Lightbulbs

WHAT'S WRONG WITH COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTS?

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL), heavily promoted for their energy saving properties, are quickly pushing traditional incandescent bulbs out of the market. They're now inexpensive, payback in electricity savings is nearly immediate, and there is that side benefit of reducing power plant emissions. Some politicians in North America and England even want to ban incandescents. The only loudly articulated opposition to this idea has been from some concerned about mercury content in CFLs. The response has been, with proper handling and recycling of their mercury contents, CFLs are safe. Is mercury really the main concern?

If you have ever worried about the safety of eating irradiated food, or about the long term effects of cell phone signals, how about the safety of you and your family being exposed to a set of electromagnetic frequencies from your lighting at home?

RADIO WCFL CALLING

Many CFLs emit electromagnetic radio wave pollution as a byproduct of the energy saving mechanism used to reduce voltage. You can investigate this by moving an AM radio close to a lit CFL bulb: the noise increases (based on research of Dr. Magda Havas as quoted on http://www.emfsolutions.ca/). Try the same with a traditional incandescent lightbult and the noise does not increase (unless the wire is polluted by another source of EM, such as a computer or another CFL bulb). Basking in the light of CFLs you are exposed to a whole set of frequencies that may be harmful to you. The closer you are, the more exposure is received. And a CFL lit in another room of the house may affect the rest of the house by carrying the EM signal along electrical wiring in the walls.

A Graham/Stetzer meter, designed by Martin Graham and sold by Stetzer Electric of Wisconsin (http://www.stetzerelectric.com/) can measure electromagnetic (EM) pollution in electrical wiring. Based on readings obtained with the meter, which uses GS units of measurement, some of the biggest sources of EM pollution in a home are CFLs. According to David Stetzer from Stetzer Electric, readings above 50 GS are considered undesirable.

I recently measured the effects of CFL bulbs on electromagnetic pollution in my home wiring with the Graham/Stetzer meter. Nine out of 11 CFL bulbs tested generated additional GS units on the wire, some in high volumes. (The amounts shown below represent increase over base reading on the wire).

Lumacoil 15W ~700+ GS units (coil shape bulb)
Commercial Electric 4W ~200+ GS, ~220+ GS (2 tested, small candelabra bulb)
n:vision 14W ~200+ GS (small coil shape bulb)
n:vision 9W ~140+ GS (coil shape)
Commercial Electric 9W ~70+ GS (traditional bulb shape)
n:vision 9W ~70+ GS (bulb shape)
Lights of America 13W ~70+ GS
Lights of America 20W ~35+ GS
Sylvania 13W ~ 20+ GS (coil shape)
Compax (GE) 15W ~0+ GS, ~0+ GS (2 tested, canister-like light, not a typical coil or bulb)
IKEA 11W ~0+ GS (bulb shape)

According to David Stetzer, a $0.50 part used in manufacturing could have prevented the pollution from getting on the wire.

The Sylvania bulb gave off ~20+ GS, which may seem decent, but is not, because other devices such as computers, monitors, appliances, and other fluorescent lights give off additional units. All sources combined easily add up to levels above the recommended 50 GS or less. This pollution is carried along electrical wiring, exposing anyone situated close to the wiring in the walls, floors, or fixtures.

Only two of the above lightbulbs resulted in no noticeable increase in GS units on the wire. Even so, David Stetzer says the lights may still emit EM waves over the air from the light emitting portion of the bulb (This could be checked with an AM radio, as described above). This was indeed true for 10 out of the 11 types of bulbs in my home. The Compax generated no radio emissions detectable by a portable radio. It may be using a different technology than the radio emitter. Unlike the other bulbs, it flickers briefly before becoming lit. This bulb is bulky and not suitable for many fixtures. I might use it in the basement from now on.

As for all the other CFL bulbs, I am not willing to take a risk of prolonged exposure to electromagnetic pollution in the form of radio waves. For this household it is back to incandescent lighting. I will be gradually switching to LED lighting as it becomes more affordable. LED lights save much more energy than CFLs and most are said not to emit EM pollution.

IT CAN'T BE THAT BAD, OR CAN IT?

To the sceptical reader asking, "If CFLs are so bad, why haven't we heard about it?" or, "If they're so bad, why isn't anyone doing something about it?"

I became aware of the issue with CFLs about three months ago when Dr. Ronald Hoffman interviewed David Stetzer on his Health Talk program. The eye-opening and jaw-dropping podcast, dated October 17, 2008, can be found at www.wor710.com/pages/1031662.

THE SUBJECT THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

After the program I searched the Internet but the only finds on CFLs were related to mercury, with one site also reporting possible leaks of ultraviolet light from faulty or broker CFLs(http://www.newswithviews.com/Peterson/rosalind1.htm). Any effects of ill health reported by forum posters on various websites were attributed to presumed leaks of mercury and were eventually remedied by removing the CFLs from homes. The awareness of the EM radiation issue was nil.

How did this subject get squelched from public awareness for so many years?

To begin, the products carry no disclosure of any usefulness. Apparently some bulbs do carry a warning about affecting devices controlled by remote controls. That's inedequate disclosure. I did not notice even this meager warning on my bulbs.

Next, CFLs have the blessing of those who should know, better. Underwriters Laboratories states on its website that CFLs are safe, listing as the only concern mercury. Utilities, Federal and local government agencies expend money and efforts to push for the adoption of CFLs and private corporations pitch in to promote them to employees.

To top it all, the bulbs have been embraced by Global Warming activists who believe it is caused by humans and seek to save the proverbial Polar Bear, at any cost to humans. In their minds, when you light incandescents, the carbon dioxide from generating electricity will make the planet too hot for the bear. The anthropogenic Global Warming theory has, in my view, given unparallel momentum to all previous efforts to widen the use of CFLs, with politicians in various countries recently proposing to mandate CFLs, or ban incandescents.

ELIMINATING CFLS

If you can afford the discomfort of higher electrical bills, it is OK to go back to incandescents. The Earth will be fine, it just goes through cyclical warmings and coolings, and we humans might not have as much impact on it as we give ourselves credit for. The heat generated by incandescents is not always wasted either. In colder months the heat reduces the amount of energy drawn from household heating.

Besides, it is possible the Earth is about to undergo a cooling, a theory advanced by a number of scientists, including Dr. John Everett, who spells out some cool facts about our climate on http://www.climatecooling.org/ and http://www.climatechangefacts.info/.

In the next year or two the prices of LED lighting will start to come down, and new OLED lighting fixtures will be introduced. The CFLs will begin to be phased out, leaving behind a long term problem of mercury disposal, remediation, and a so far untold toll on human health.

35 comments:

a rose is a rose said...

something for me to think about

i DO like led lighting and recently purchased a piece of jewelry incorporating it. i am also going to purchase an led kit for sewing (conductive thread and led lights for clothing or embellishing 'stuff').

Michael said...

LED's well surpass CFL's in tech advances these days and yet we still don't notice. Is there a chance for government to take an intrest in new techknologies, rather than keep building on the old standby's that contain harmful gases in thier production? The air that we breathe is a very valuable 'PUBLIC' resource!

Banchero Media Productions said...

I think this is a very important subject. I am a big advocate of CFLs, and I promote them often. But I am worried about mercury poisoning the environment, and now I find I should be thinking about EMFs.

I agree that the use of LEDs show great future promise -- but incandescents will be more difficult to find as we move toward the next decade.

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Laura said...

Interesting story.
Would these bulbs also effect cell phones like they do AM radios ?
We switched to CFLs at my work, as a seamtress it is only inches away from my head! We tried halogens years ago, and they were REALLY hot, the incandesents were hot but not terriably so. The LEDs did not hold up to the vibrations and were very expensive to replace. I still have my old LED, I think I will switch back and pay replacement cost myself, IF it would make a difference in a room with so many CFL already going.
One big issue to me personally is as a farmer, I use lights for heating in the poultry houses in the winter. One blub can keep their water from freezing. Another in a heat reflector keeps the cold edge off for the girls to warm up by, one bulb can also hatch eggs set in my homemade incubator. Banning of these bulbs would be out of the question for most farmers.
The CFLs I have used just for lighting inside the poultry house do not function very well in cold weather, they stay very dim and brake easy in the winter.
Not a really big deal, but the CFLs also do not fit into many of my light fixtures, or stick out over the shade of some lamps cause of their height.
Please keep sharing CONFIRMED dangers and information.
Thank you!

Banchero Media Productions said...

CFL's and LED's don't emit much heat. If you're thinking of using them to generate warmth -- for instance, Laura below mention this as an issue. So they aren't right for poultry farmers trying to heat the hen house.

psherman888 said...

the CFL portion of your article was sufficiently provocative to have me wanting to learn more. then, you turned your otherwise healthful skepticism against the masses of data that describe climate disruption and human participation in that. as a phd who spends his professional time research climate disruption, you lost me. i will still look further into CFLs but I will find more reliable sources. sorry.

psherman888 said...

the CFL portion of your article was sufficiently provocative to have me wanting to learn more. then, you turned your otherwise healthful skepticism against the masses of data that describe climate disruption and human participation in that. as a phd who spends his professional time research climate disruption, you lost me. i will still look further into CFLs but I will find more reliable sources. sorry.

Dustin said...

"Mercury" being the ONLY main concern is not something to be taken lightly. Just because CFL's save energy over conventional light bulbs does not mean that they are an appropriate solution. Toxifying factories that they are made in, our home and work places, as well as the environment upon disoposal creates a much larger problem at hand and almost contradicts any purpose for the CFL bulb in the first place. Why the light bulbs are even allowed to be sold for home solutions is a questionable topic- spilling the equivalent of liquid mercury in someone's home would mean that a hazmat team would have to come and clean up- why do we allow it for mercury vapor?

Energy_saver85 said...

If we recycle old CFLs we can keep the environment safe. The problem would be if everyone is willing to do so. Are you going to participate in the recycling program to help our environment?

Energy_saver85 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Safety Lights said...

Safety lightThere is increasing interest in replacing incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) as one means of reducing energy consumption and the generation of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming.

Mac said...

I'm going to try that AM radio near to a CFL, I'd like to witness it myself. We use CFL at home

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Robin Ratcliff said...

In our town they are selling them at Goodwill Stores. People who are not well read and want to save a buck are snatching them up. How sad and unfortunate to see them contaminate their own families....

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David Hammond said...

Broken CFLs can release sufficient mercury vapor to cause poisoning. The Maine Department of Environment Protection conducted experimental trials to measure how much mercury was released when fluorescent bulb or CFLs were broken inside moderate sized rooms4. They found that the mercury concentration could reach as high as 50,000 ng/m3 and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single CFL. The Maine guideline for ambient air mercury is 300 ng/m3. There is at least one case report in medical journals in which a 23-month-old baby developed acrodynia after being exposed to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs.

From Mercury Poisoning: The Undiagnosed Epidemic

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