Fluorescent lightbulbs – are they dangerous?

The fluorescent light bulb – a part of the solution to climate change, or a deadly killer in our midst?

Eco lightbulbs are extremely safe, and most importantly, they use considerably less electricity than old incandescent lightbulbs. That’s because less of the energy used is turned into heat.

As a direct product of using less electricity, less fuel needs to be burned in power plants, reducing the amount of toxin chemicals released into the atmosphere.

There are two big claims against flourescent lightbulbs, firstly that they emit UV radiation, and secondly that they emit the dangerous chemical mercury.

As is often the case, these are based in reality. Tiny amounts of UV radiation are emitted by these lightbulbs, but not considerably more than incandescent bulbs [citation needed]. And compared to sunlight, the UV emission is miniscule. The FDA recommends not sitting extremely close to lightbulbs for long durations… but why would you do that anyway?

The second claim is also based in reality : eco lightbulbs do contain a trace amount of mercury. That’s why, if you break an eco lightbulb, you should clean it up carefully – instructions in this link : https://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl. If you don’t break the bulb though, the chemicals stay inside and are totally harmless. Interestingly, more mercury is put into the atmosphere by fuel burned to power incandescent bulbs than is used in the average flourescent bulb!

Given this evidence, flourescent bulbs are a safe and economical option – at least until the cost of producing LED bulbs drops!


Image credits:

By Sun Ladder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9690866