The Washington Times - April 25, 2011, 01:11AM

According to a recently released German study, the supposed “environmentally friendly” compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s), are reported to have “cancer causing chemicals” that are sent out when the light is switched on, reports London’s Daily Telegraph

Their report advises that the bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head, as they emit poisonous materials when switched on.

Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin’s Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”

The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year.

But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene.


As a result of the environmental movement’s panic over global warming, Congress and the White House passed 2007 energy legislation that would begin the phasing out of the incandescent light bulb between 2012 and 2014. Environmentalists argued that incandescent lights use more electricity than CFL’s, so Thomas Edison’s greatest achievement was considered too “inefficient” and costly. However, lawmakers on both federal and state levels are waging a fight against the incandescent light bulb ban, as reported in an April 1 Washington Times editorial:

State lawmakers are fed up with the federal government micromanaging their lives. The South Carolina Senate is scheduled to strike back Tuesday with a bill that asserts the 10th Amendment right of the state to tell Washington to take a hike when it comes to the sale of incandescent light bulbs manufactured within state borders.

Unfortunately, repealing such a federal ban on incandescents will be tough getting passed by the Democratic controlled Senate and a probable veto from President Barack Obama:

Ideally, Congress would pass the light-bulb freedom measure introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, which repeals the 2007 ban. Realistically, her measure would have a tough time getting past the veto pen of President Obama. That’s why states are looking at their own declarations of lighting freedom. It will only take one state’s defiance of federal overreach to break the system. Should Mr. Sandifer’s bill be the first enacted, there is no doubt the South Carolina will see a substantial increase in tourism next year - as drivers fill the trunks of their cars with mercury-free bulbs.

The new German study is not the first time CFL’s have been cited as potentially harmful to humans and the rest of the environment. The Telegraph article also points out:

The latest report follows claims by Abraham Haim, a professor of biology at Haifa University in Israel, that the bulbs could result in higher breast cancer rates if used late at night.

He said that the bluer light that CFLs emitted closely mimicked daylight, disrupting the body’s production of the hormone melatonin more than older-style filament bulbs, which cast a yellower light.

The Migraine Action Association has warned that they could trigger migraines and skin care specialists have claimed that their intense light could exacerbate a range of existing skin problems.

When it was revealed that the mercury inside the enviro-light bulb could produce a toxic environment from mercury fumes if the bulb ever broke, the EPA released a three page guide in January on how to properly clean up and dispose of a broken CFL bulb.

The steps include not only “shutting off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system” before cleaning up the debris but also different types of procedures for cleaning up different types of surfaces. In fact, the EPA even suggests after cleanup and disposal to “continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.” However, it does not stop there. Expect to find yourself paying extra-close attention to future cleanups in the area the CFL bulb broke:

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.

After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.

In fact, the EPA goes as far as discussing how not to break a CFL bulb to begin with, like:

Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.


Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.

The safest option would be if the federal government not force American consumers to purchase CFL bulbs as a replacement to the “inefficient” incandescent light bulb but that would be too easy.