Are Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs Bad for Your Health?
As Compact Fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are becoming more common, more people are finding they feel sick near them. There seems to be more health risks than just the mercury in these CFL bulbs.
I don’t want this article to sound like a “the sky is falling” type article, but for a certain segment of the population, these compact fluorescent light bulbs can cause real health problems. More doctors and health clinics in the United States, Canada and Europe are hearing from people who are actually feeling and getting sick from these CFL light bulbs.
You might be thinking, well if someone’s health is affected by the CFL bulbs, then don’t use them. That is not going to be so easy. By 2014, you will not be able to buy the normal incandescent light bulbs in the United States, Europe, Canada or Australia anymore. By law, you will only be able to buy the compact fluorescent light bulbs or the LED light bulbs.
I was not aware of the connection between compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and these health problems until this weekend when I was in line at the hardware store. A gentleman walked in with a bag of CFL bulbs he couldn’t return because he didn’t have the receipt. He was going to change all of the light bulbs in his home to the CFL bulbs and then found out they could affect his autistic child and wanted nothing to do with them. So he gave all of us standing in line the CFL light bulbs.
CFL bulbs can affect people with autism, lupus, epilepsy and those who suffer from migraines. Other health complaints with compact fluorescent light bulbs are:
- Blurry vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Skin rashes and rosacea
- Joint pain like arthritis
- Eye pain
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Lupus
All light bulbs emit some UV or ultraviolet light; some emit more than others and at different parts of the UV spectrum. Ultraviolet light or UV radiation can have an adverse affect on people with certain types of lupus like lupus erythematosus . The CFL bulbs can cause or worsen skin rashes, skin lesions and pain in people with certain forms of lupus.
Tests have shown that 20% of the compact fluorescent light bulbs tested emit higher levels of UV light. If you have problems with UV and you have to be around the compact fluorescent light bulbs, you can buy what are called encapsulated or double-envelope CFL bulbs. Ask your hardware store or you can look at NaturaLux.com
Autism, Migraines and Epilepsy with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Some compact fluorescent light bulbs flicker. Some older CFL bulbs turns off and on 120 times per second with 60 Hz power in the US. Most people do not see this on and off cycling of the CFL bulbs, but it does affect some people.
Many have reported that these compact fluorescent light bulbs can trigger migraines, seizure-like symptoms in epileptics and aggravate those with autism
It is thought that infants can see this changing light. The compact fluorescent light bulbs came onto the market in the mid 1990’s, which corresponds with an increase in autism cases. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but it is known that the rapid flickering of the compact fluorescent lights can make a person with autism become agitated.
Liza Schwab who writes a blog for the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote that when she put a compact fluorescent light bulb in her autistic son’s bedroom, he became agitated, moody and aggressive and couldn’t sleep. Her son went back to normal when the CFL bulb was replaced with an incandescent light bulb. To some with autism, these CFL bulbs can seem like a strobe light.
Newer compact fluorescent light bulbs have electronic ballast which refreshes or flickers at around 40,000 times per second, much faster than the old fluorescent bulbs .
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Dirty Electricity
Compact fluorescent light bulbs put out a lot of electrical interference or dirty electricity. Some CFL bulbs are worse than others. You can hear this on an AM radio. Set the radio between stations and move the AM radio closer to the CFL bulb and you can hear the intense noise.
Dr. Magda Havas, associate professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Canada’s Trent University says that this dirty electricity can cause dizziness, fatigue, eyestrain, migraines and ringing in the ears .
In her research, Dr. Havas has found numerous health problems related to the dirty electricity from these CFL bulbs including:
- Diabetics exposed to these bulbs showed a spike in their blood sugar levels which dropped when they were moved out of the room. This means a diabetic could need more insulin when near these bulbs.
- People with multiple sclerosis had worsening symptoms when exposed to the dirty electricity, once again improving when moved away from the source.
- Asthma and sick building complaints were greatly reduced when the CFL bulbs were removed from a classroom in Wisconsin.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Sleep disorders
Possible Solutions to the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Health Problems
As I write this, certain politicians in the US are trying to repeal the ban on incandescent bulbs. Until this happens you can still buy incandescent light bulbs while you can find them or stock up on them. The next light bulb will probably be the much cleaner LED (light emitting diode) bulbs.
To clean up the dirty electricity in your home, you can buy a GS (Graham-Stetzer) filter and plug it in your AC outlets. Numerous schools in Canada have installed these GS filters and report widespread improvements in students and teachers health, especially reducing symptoms of asthma and ADD/ADHD .
Conclusion on the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb
There are decent studies confirming the UV from CFL bulbs and the health problems concerning people with certain types of lupus. There aren’t many studies concerning compact fluorescent light bulbs and other health problems. The lighting industry and the various government agencies say that the health concerns related to CFL bulbs have been overstated.
If you or your child have autism, epilepsy, certain forms of lupus, multiple sclerosis, migraines or are sensitive to UV, you should keep these new compact fluorescent light bulbs in mind if you notice symptoms increase and or getting worse.
One reason we might be seeing more health problems is we now have these compact fluorescent light bulbs on our desks and in closer proximity to us in our homes and offices where we sit much closer to them.
Copyright Sam Montana November 17, 2010
Resources and More Information
 PubMed Fluorescent light photosensitivity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Rihner M, McGrath H Jr. Arthritis Rheum. 1992 Aug;35(8):949-52. Department of Medicine, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans
 Dr. Magda Havas
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