Light Bulbs and Cancer

About a year ago, I alerted you to the dangers of fluorescent light bulbs and cancer. I uncovered a little-known study published in the medical journal The Lancet linking fluorescent office lighting with skin cancer.  At that time, I was one of the few people talking about this risk. 

Now, since the government is pushing everyone to use those new energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) by 2014, scientists are finally taking a hard look at just how safe they really are. 

The news isn’t good.  The more I learn about these curlicue bulbs, the more convinced I am that I’ll never let them inside my house. Here’s why.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Leak Radiation and Toxins

The study in The Lancet followed hundreds of women for over 10 years and concluded that “exposure to fluorescent light at work was associated with a doubling of melanoma risk.”1

That was long before the invention of the new compact fluorescent lights.  But a study just last year from Stony Brook University proved that the new bulbs also have serious problems.  It found that significant levels of UV rays can seep out of CFLs and damage healthy skin cells.2 

The researchers directed CFLs at skin cells in a laboratory. 

They found that all of the CFL bulbs leaked some UV radiation.  The cells under the bulbs stopped growing and changed shape from the damaging effects of both UVA and UVC light. 

UVA produces oxidative damage in skin cells and UVC damages skin cell DNA.  We don’t usually worry about UVC rays from the sun because they scatter into the air and become harmless.  But according to the researchers, in a closed space at a close range of a foot or so, the bulbs gave off UV rays equivalent to sunbathing at the equator.

And CFLs don’t just release UV radiation.  A 2011 German study found that when turned on, CFLs release phenol, naphthalene and styrene, all of which are cancer causing toxins.3 

And, of course, there’s the mercury risk. Unlike standard incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights need mercury to operate. But if we break one of those CFLs, the escaping mercury gives off 8 times the safe limit set by OSHA for workers and 8,000 times the recommended limit for children

That’s NOT a risk I’m willing to take with my kids. 

Choose the Safe Alternative to Compact Fluorescent Lights

Until we get more safety studies, my advice is not to use CFLs at all.

After months of research, I believe light emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the way to go. 

I was a little skeptical of them at first, but the technology has made huge leaps in the past year.  Compared to CFLs, the new generation LED:

  • Consumes less energy,
  • Lasts twice as long,
  • Produces a more natural light, that’s more pleasing to the eye,
  • Won’t leak radiation, and
  • Is mercury-free.

If you’ve been putting off replacing your bulbs, now may be the perfect time.  Cree, a pioneer in LED technology, just came out with an LED to replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb for under $13.00. 

That’s an incredible price compared to the more than $40 per light I paid just last year. 

The new LEDs have a 10-year, limited warranty, and are designed to last 25,000 hours or 25 times longer than an old-fashioned incandescent bulb. (25,000 hours is almost three years of continuous use… and of course, no one leaves the light on all the time.)

They’re available now online at Home Depot and will be in Home Depot stores starting March 21, 2013. 

1 Beral B, et al. Malignant melanoma and exposure to fluorescent lighting at work. The Lancet, Aug 7, 1982. Vol.320, Issue 8293, pages 290-293. LINK:

2 Tatsiana Mironava, Michael Hadjiargyrou, Marcia Simon, Miriam H. Rafailovich, The Effects of UV Emission from Compact Fluorescent Light Exposure on Human Dermal Fibroblasts and Keratinocytes In Vitro, Photochemistry and Photobiology, Volume 88, Issue 6, pages 1497–1506, November/December 2012

3 Victoria Ward, Energy saving light bulbs ‘contain cancer causing chemicals’, The Telegraph, April 20, 2011




About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.

© Copyright 2013 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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