In response to the criticisms on CFL’s, it is often said that LED-lights (‘light-emitting diodes’) are the perfect and safe alternative. However, scientific studies and reports have shown that LED’s as well contain numerous toxic substances and are hazardous to health. Research by the University of California found that LED’s contain lead, arsenic, nickel and a dozen other potentially hazardous, cancer-causing substances (23).

In the words of the scientists of the University of California themselves:

“Lead, arsenic and many additional metals discovered in the bulbs have been linked in hundreds of studies to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses. The copper used in some LEDs also poses an ecological threat to fish, rivers and lakes. (…) And – noting that lead tastes sweet – the scientists warned that small children could be harmed if they mistake the bright lights for candy. (…) We’re putting people’s lives at risk.” (24)

In 2010, the French public health watchdog Anses warned, on the basis of an evaluation by scientific experts, that there is strong evidence that the intense blue-white light emitted by LEDs is a “toxic stress” on the retina and thus is a hazard for the eye (25). For young people the risk is even higher as their eyes are still developing and the lens is not capable of filtering out the light wavelengths.

That LED’s are a hazard to the eye is also confirmed by anecdotal evidence of people reporting pain in the eye and blinding when exposed to for example the LED’s used for car and bicycle lights or LED street lighting. There have also been reports of headaches (26).


(23)    Seong-Rim, L., Kang, D., Ogunseitan, O.A. & Schoenung, J.M. (2011). Potential Environmental Impacts of Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs): Metallic Resources, Toxicity and Hazardous Waste Classification. Environmental Science & Technology. 45:320-327.

See also http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/229na2.pdf

(24)    University of California Irvine News Release, 10/02/2011

(25)    Watchdog safety alert on LED light, The Connexion, 26/10/2010

Effets sanitaires des systèmes d’éclairage utilisant des diodes électroluminescentes (LED), Anses, 26/10/2010

(26)    ‘LED lighting causes headaches in Dutch workers’, De Telegraaf, 30/10/2009


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