The danger of compact fluorescent lighting
When I travel these days I always pack a four pack of incandescent light bulbs with me. Occasionally I will forget and then my first stop is always to the nearest Safeway or drug store to buy a pack. The more I hear about the possibility of a ban on these types of bulbs the more I worry. Should I start a stockpile of them in my basement now? Or have faith that LEDs will become more widespread before the ban or perhaps some new alternative will be developed.
So why does this worry me?
Yes there is the concern about the mercury in CFLs, a known toxic substance. But what concerns me the most is that CFLs or compact fluorescent lighting makes me sick. I can be under it for a short period of time, say an hour or two, but that’s it. If I spend a day under CFLs (or in my case also the classic tube fluorescence lights), it usually takes me a day to get back to normal. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, I can’t hold thoughts, I feel drained yet I can’t sleep that evening, and I feel irritated and depressed.
I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to others who have similar problems and there have been some reports about CFLs increasing migrants, depression, and worsening symptoms in diseases such as Lupus. Traditionally healers, such as Barbara Ann Brennan, have long advised to never do healing work under fluorescence lighting of any kind to avoid making yourself ill. These lights drain our energy and especially for us in a healing profession this can be very dangerous.
Studies have also show that children do much better under normal lighting. From Earthwatch – Compact Fluorescents vs. Full Spectrum Bulbs
Elementary school Principal William Titoff, in his Ph.D. dissertation, found that “there was a statistically significant difference between students who worked under old-style fluorescent lights and those who worked under full-spectrum, visually-efficient lighting.” His study also found that depression was reduced among those students who studied under full spectrum lights and that it increased among fourth graders who sat under fluorescents.
A similar study, conducted in Florida in 1973 by light pioneer Dr. John Ott, found that students under fluorescents were more likely to be irritable, hyperactive, fatigued and have trouble paying attention. The students under full spectrum lights were better behaved and performed better academically within one month of the lights’ installation.
Here is another interesting letter to the editor about CFLs from Dr. Magda Havas, B.Sc. Ph.D a researcher in electromagnetic pollution from Trent University which explains part of the problem.
As Dr. Havas states -
Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce radio wave frequencies. These frequencies radiate directly from the bulbs and go on the electrical wiring in the home or school causing poor power quality or dirty electricity. The closer you sit to the bulb the greater your exposure. Because the high frequencies travel along the wire you can be exposed in other rooms of your home as well as the room that contains the CFL.
I worry as more and more people replace their traditional bulbs with CFLs that these new bulbs will affect the health of not just the people in the house, but also the animals. I am lucky enough to be able to tell that CFLs make me sick and do something about it, but how will you be able to tell if CFLs are making your animal sick? They cannot tell us if they are having headaches or just feeling bad.
Also new research has come to light that indicates that CFLs emit a high humming sound that is not in our range of hearing but is in the range of hearing of cats and dogs. Can you image hearing a high pitched humming sound all day long. It would be enough to drive you nuts! Many pet owners report that their cats or dogs do not want to be in rooms with CFL bulbs on and will become anxious if they are forced to be.
I ask you to consider alternatives to CFLs. In a few years the technology for LED lighting should be better and LEDs should be available for about the price of a normal bulb. LED bulbs last possibly forever (at least ten years or more) and use much less energy than CFLs. Most importantly they are safe! In the mean time keep your normal incandescent light bulbs. Even without taking the health effects of CFLs into consideration, we are going to have an environmental nightmare from the mercury in these light bulbs in a few years.
Also remember that if you break these light bulbs you need to be very cautious about how you go about cleaning up. You don’t need a full haz-mat team but some precautions are needed and make sure to get your animals and children out of the room immediately. Here’s the snopes.com article on what you do and don’t need to do.
1/30/12 I have now began replacing some of my bulbs with LEDs. The prices are starting to come down and the quality is getting better. My most recent purchase was the Philips 409904 Dimmable AmbientLED Light Bulb. The light quality is still not what it is with the incandescent light bulbs but much better than the CFLs in my opinion. Spending $80 on three light bulbs today I felt a little silly but they are supposed to last over twenty years and use about $1.00 of electricity a year, so overall I think it is a win. Plus since there are many places in our home that require ladders to reach I am excited that this may be the last time up on a ladder for a long time. Happy light bulb hunting!