Compact Florescent Lights are Bad for You and the Environment

There’s an old saying about choosing the lesser of two evils.  With what seems to be the gradual phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, known for their shorter life span and lead content, in favor of compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs), arguably longer lasting, more energy efficient bulbs, the electronics industry presents that CFLs as a “greener” choice that will save people money on light bulbs and their electric bill; that CFLs are “the lesser of the two evils.”

Walt McGinnis argues otherwise.  A licensed electrician, electromagnetic radiation tester and a member of the EM Radiation Task Force, McGinnis proposes in The Dark Side of CFLs that CFLs are much worse than incandescent bulbs, arguing that they are bad for you and for the environment.

Here are the facts:

  1. They contain mercury
  2. They produce ultraviolet radiation
  3. They produce radio frequency radiation
  4. They produce electromagnetic radiation
  1. The level on lead in incandescent bulbs can easily fall into the realms of unreasonable, let alone the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure’s (TCLP) legal limit.  Lead is already a common in element found in most electronic devices that’s made its way into landfills over the last 100 years, let alone the history of harm done to human beings (Google: Romans and lead poisoning).  However, the mercury contained within CFLs (5 milligrams of elemental mercury per bulb) is much more hazardous to people.  If a CFL breaks and anything leaks it is considered highly toxic.  This doesn’t even go into the damage CFLs are doing in our landfills, soaking into our soil, seeping into our water, and drifting into our air.  Exposure to mercury can result in serious nervous system damage.
  2. If you’ve ever been out too long in the sun, you’ve gotten sunburn.  Part of this comes from overexposure to the sun’s rays and ultraviolet radiation.  If you’re continually exposed to the sun, without proper protection (sunscreen, hats, etc.) over a period of many years you’ll find yourself at risk for melanoma: skin cancer.  CFL’s produce ultraviolet radiation.  Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from CFL’s can give you skin-based ailments like rashes, and possibly cancer.
  3. If you ever heard an argument that cell phones caused cancer or any other illness, it would be rooted in the radio frequency radiation emitted by cell phones.  CFLs emit a very similar type of radio frequency radiation, and while, like cell phones, it is technically unconfirmed, too much radio frequency radiation can’t be good for you either.
  4. McGinnis cites some poll from Sweden wherein more than 3% of the Swedish population (about 290,000 people) reported that after they were exposed to electromagnetic radiation over an extended period of time, they suffered a variety of symptoms including joint stiffness, fatigue, sleep and memory problems, and in some cases cancer.  McGinnis, who is an electromagnetic radiation tester and member of the EM Radiation Task Force, notes that the levels of electromagnetic radiation that CFLs emit are harmful to your health.

In short, from cradle to grave, CFLs leave much more of a carbon footprint and are much more harmful to the environment than incandescent bulbs are.  McGinnis cites that in New Zealand, government officials lifted a ban on incandescent bulbs after concerns over CFLs safety arose.  With much of the world banning the sale of incandescent bulbs in favor of CFLs, it seems like the world has made the wrong choice in choosing the lesser of two evils.

Photo courtesy of Alvimann.


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