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.
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.