Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce electromagnetic radiation

Letter to the Editor: Vitality Magazine.

Not all compact fluorescent lights are the same and not all full spectrum lights are safe.

By Magda Havas, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University (Canada)

I just read Rob Ferraz’s article in Vitality Magazine “Earthwatch-Compact Fluorescents vs. Full Spectrum Bulbs” ( and agree that there are problems with CFL that go beyond the mercury problem. Some of these hearth concerns were alluded to in the article, namely that some people complain of irritability, depression, hyperactivity, fatigue, headaches etc. The articles goes on to state that if full spectrum lights are used this problem goes away. It’s not that simple.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce radio wave frequencies. These frequencies radiate directly from the bulbs and go on the electrical wiring in the home or school causing poor power quality or dirty electricity. The closer you sit to the bulb the greater your exposure. Because the high frequencies travel along the wire you can be exposed in other rooms of your home as well as the room that contains the CFL.

Not all CFL bulbs produce the same amount of dirty electricity. Some are worse than others. Our research on CFL will be released to the public this fall so shoppers can decide which bulbs they want to buy based on energy efficiency, cost, and potential health impacts to their family.

Full spectrum lights mimic the sun and can reduce seasonal affective disorder or SAD especially during our northern winters when natural sunlight is limited. But some full spectrum bulbs also produce high frequencies that some people are sensitive to. This sensitivity is known as electrical sensitivity (ES) or electrohypersensitivity (EHS) and is becoming a growing concern because of our increasing exposure to electromagnetic energy from electronic equipment and wireless devices. As many as 3% of the population have full blown EHS and are unable to live is a modern electrical environment. Many complain that they cannot be in a room with fluorescent lights because they feel “unwell”. These people have difficulty shopping in large department stores because of the lighting and often go with list in hand and spend as little time in the store as possible. Their cognitive functions diminish and some have difficulty recalling where they parked their car.

Putting lights on dimmer switches exacerbates the problem. The dimmer switch converts the electrical signal into high frequency transients that result in dirty electricity. Even clean incandescent lights will produce dirty electricity if a dimmer switch is used. Most CFL are incompatible with dimmers.

Ontario moved too quickly promoting CFL and David Suzuki should have done his homework before he allowed his picture to be used to promote CFL. Yes they will save us green house gases but at what cost to our health?

-magda havas

Dr. Magda Havas is Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University and does research on electromagnetic pollution.

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2 Responses to Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce electromagnetic radiation

  1. sue says:

    I was trying understand the science behind electrical sensitivity to CFL’s. Had no idea about the radio frequency emitted by CFS’s.

    Thanks for the information!

  2. lighthouse says:

    More about CFL and LED problems, also referring to Magda Havas

    CFL Safety
    Home Safety — Radiation — Health

    The CFL Mercury Issue
    Breakage — Recycling — Dumping — Mining — Manufacturing —
    Transport — Power Plants

    The Lead and Arsenic Issue
    Lead, arsenic and other toxic content, home breakage and disposal concerns

    The Overall Small Energy Savings from light bulb regulations:
    USA Dept of Energy data, less than 1% of society energy usage saved

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