As humans consider the impact of global climate change and work hard to avoid excessively using the earth’s resources, scientists are constantly searching for ways to be more environmentally friendly. A new generation of light bulbs that save energy is just one of the ways we are changing the way we use electricity. However, this energy efficiency may not come without another cost—to your health.
The United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has identified the gas inside these light bulbs as poisonous and, as such, has created a protocol for cases when lights bulbs may be broken or cracked. In fact, if these light bulbs are broken indoors, the poisonous gas releases up to 20 times the amount of mercury that is acceptable for human health. (This is according to a study for the German Federal Environmental agency by the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute.)
If a person is exposed to the poisonous gas that is contained in these energy efficient light bulbs, there are a number of side effects that can occur. While some are minimal and simply uncomfortable, others may be life threatening.
Side Effects Caused by the Gases in Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
- Cluster Headaches
- Lack of Concentration
- Cardiovascular Problems
- Immune System Damage
- Memory Loss
- Liver and Kidney Damage
- Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms
Dangerous Toxins in Energy Saving Light Bulbs
Two other toxins present in certain energy efficient light bulbs are Phenol and Napthalene. These are white, crystalline substances that originate from coal tar and are used in chemical manufacturing.
Styrene is another substance found in light bulbs. This is a petroleum by-product which is a liquid hydrocarbon. Arsenic, lead, and other hazardous substances may also be found in LED light bulbs.
Information on these toxins was found through a study conducted in Germany by Peter Braun at Alab Laboratory as well as from a study performed at the University of California Irvine.
UV Rays in Energy Saving Light Bulbs
While we all slather on the sunscreen in the summer to avoid the UV rays that come from the sun, is it possible that we need to wear sunscreen in our own homes? It has been found that the newer energy efficient light bulbs emit radiation in the form of UV-B and UV-C rays. This type of radiation is known to be harmful to the skin as well as the eyes and immune system. UV rays may damage the skin tissue to prevent the absorption of Vitamin D-3, and can lead to skin cancer.
What to do about Energy Saving Light Bulbs?
Since the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 dictates that everyone must begin using CFL or LED light bulbs, we need to know what to do in case of a malfunction. If an energy efficient light bulb breaks in your home, you need to immediately clear your home of the poisonous gases which are emitted. You can do this by opening the windows and doors of the house, and evacuating for a minimum of fifteen minutes.
Exposure to the gases from one broken light bulb are not likely to cause illness, however, continued long-term exposure could be very dangerous. Appropriate disposal of energy efficient light bulbs is also critical.
Although we like to think about the idea of saving the planet and saving money by using energy-efficient light bulbs, we need to think twice about the fact that we might be damaging the health of our families. It’s important to take great care with breakage or disposal of these new energy saving light bulbs.