Posted by: The Paris Apartment | April 23, 2011

CFL light bulbs contain cancer causing chemicals

Scientists claim that several carcinogenic chemicals are released when energy saving light bulbs are switched on

Fears have been reignited about the safety of energy saving light bulbs after a group of scientists warned that they contain cancer causing chemicals.

By Victoria Ward 7:16AM BST 20 Apr 2011366 Comments

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.

Andreas Kirchner, of the Federation of German Engineers, said: “Electrical smog develops around these lamps.

“I, therefore, use them only very economically. They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head.”

British experts insisted that more research was needed and urged consumers not to panic.

Dr Michelle Bloor, senior lecturer in Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, told the Daily Express: “Further independent studies would need to be undertaken to back up the presented German research.”

The Department for the Environment insists the bulbs are safe, despite the fact that they contain small amounts of mercury which would leak out if the glass was broken.

Advice on its website states: “Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public.

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.



  1. Yes,
    and many – as in Canada with a possible delay – are now saying
    “Wait with a ban on simple incandescents until better alternatives are there!”

    But of course, if new bulbs are better, people will presumably want to buy them anyway!

    The whole talk of the (supposed) “Big Savings” from a ban is from banning what people want to buy.
    NO “Big Savings” from banning what people don’t like!
    (Simple incandescents obviously still being different from Halogen incandescents etc , and much cheaper)

    If a NEW product is preferred to the old one, why ban the old one?
    (No point, little savings)
    If an OLD product is preferred to the new one, why ban the old one?
    (No point, the old one is better)
    Think about it…

  2. No authoritative or regulatory body anywhere in the world classifies styrene to be a known cause of human cancer. Moreover, a study conducted by a “blue ribbon” panel of epidemiologists and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (November 2009) reports: “The evidence of human carcinogenicity of styrene is inconsistent and weak. On the basis of the available evidence, one cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship between styrene and any type of human cancer.”

    Priscilla Briones for the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), Arlington, Virginia. SIRC ( is a trade association representing interests of the North American styrene industry with its mission being the collection, development, analysis and communication of pertinent information on styrene.

    • Re styrene reply

      Phenol is the main problem anyway
      as also seen in the German references to the research

  3. Poppycock. Sure they contain toxic materials, but so has flourescent bulbs that have been around for decades! They don’t emite this stuff just by turning them on, they have to break first. This is the same as flourescent bulbs that have been around for years. I am by no means a “green” person, but this smacks of people trying to discredit green items for their own means.

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