CFL – Let there be (not this!) Light

The Dark Side Of CFLs
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Walt McGinnis

Consider this – instead of saving the environment, CFLs are actually
destroying it. CFLs should be thought of as toxic technology, when
mercury contamination, ultraviolet radiation, and radio frequency
radiation are factored in. From cradle to grave, CFLs pose a danger to
people’s health and well being, as well as adding even more toxicity to
the environment. In fact, CFLs do not reduce a person’s carbon
footprint and may even increase it in some situations. To make matters
even worse, CFLs emit harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation.

Starting in the year 2012, regular incandescent bulbs, the ones
invented by Thomas Edison over 100 years ago, will be banned in Canada
in the pursuit of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet,
contrary to popular belief, switching from regular bulbs to CFLs could
increase global energy consumption, not reduce it. If that alone does
not shake consumer confidence, perhaps the facts that CFLs contain
mercury and also emit electromagnetic radiation might give people a
wake-up call up to the truth about CFLs.

On the other hand, since CFL producers are being handed a monopoly in
the light bulb market by some federal government and are being cheered
on by corporatist environmental groups, sales are not about to drop
anytime soon.

It seems like the protectors of the environment have jumped ship.
Health Canada is simply not doing its job as they ignore the
devastating impact of having millions of CFLs in our environment. Why
are they sitting by, and allowing the Canadian government to force its
citizens to use them?

To make matters even worse, groups such as theSuzuki
FoundationandGreenpeace, whom Canadians have come to rely on to protect
them from environmental pollutants, have chosen to ignore the potential
looming environmental and health risks, and blindly promote the use of

Why have environmentalists and the government joined in an alliance
with the electrical industry in promoting an undeniably dangerous
product? Whose side are they on anyway?

Canadian Health and Safety officials seem to be asleep at the switch,
oblivious of the hazards, and environmentalists appear to have sold
out, as manufacturers and sellers of CFLs are laughing all the way to
the bank.  With impunity “los tres amigos”, the manufacturers, the
corporatist environmentalist backers and government, are leaving misled
consumers to deal with the aftermath of a potential environmental

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government, citing concerns about CFLs lack
of efficiency and safety, has lifted its ban on incandescent bulbs.
Hopefully other governments will see the wisdom in this decision and
follow suit.

Corporatist Environmentalists

Corporatism is the dominant ideology in today’s western democracies.
“While the corporatist society maintains a veneer of open criticism and
democracy, it squelches opposition to dominant corporate interests by
using propaganda and rhetoric to obscure facts and to deter
communication among citizens. Corporatism creates conformists who
behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies, not responsible
citizens,” explainsPublishers Weekly, reviewing the book Voltaire’s
Bastards by John Ralston Saul. These are just some of the attributes of
the ideology that has a strangle hold on our society and, it appears,
on our major environmental groups as well.

The environment is too important to be left solely to the

Environmentalists with corporatist tendencies can cause a lot of harm
when they are not properly scrutinized and held accountable by the
public. They have played a huge role in keeping consumers in the dark
regarding the hazards posed by CFLs. TheSuzuki
FoundationandGreenpeaceclaim that CFLs are good for the environment and
no one dares to challenge them.

The disinformation process begins when public awareness of a harmful
product, such as a CFL, is restricted by environmental groups. Over
time, with no real criticism of the product, a consensus consciousness
is created in the public mind that the product is safe.  Finally, in
one of the oldest tricks in the book, corporations use these groups as
third party endorsers to create a favourable image of a potentially
dangerous product. Remember back in the sixties with doctors in TV adds

The evidence that shows that CFLs are hazardous to humans is
undeniable. The question is, why are environmental groups willing to
risk a safe environment and their reputations by promoting a toxic

CFLs Are A Hazardous Product & Do Not Save Energy

It may surprise many people to know that CFLs increase a consumer’s
carbon footprint in a ”˜cradle to grave’ analysis. Full costs to
manufacture, operate and safely dispose of a CFL have never been
disclosed to the public. The reality is that residential lighting takes
up only 0.8% of energy consumption in Canada.

CFLs are energy hogs to produce, operate and dispose of. Reducing a
consumer’s carbon footprint is the CFL’s raison d’être.  But before
deciding to switch over to compact florescent lights it would be wise
to first review a cradle to grave analysis of the carbon footprint of a
CFL, compared to an incandescent bulb.

What is the real energy cost of a CFL?  What does it cost to mine,
manufacture, package, ship, sell, operate, dispose of CFLs on the
environment? These are questions ignored by CFL promoters.

AnInternational Association for Energy-Efficient Lighting(IAEEL) study
conducted in Denmark, explored some carbon footprint factors, but not
all, showing it took 1.8 Kwh of electricity to assemble a CFL compared
to 0.11 Kwh to assemble an incandescent bulb.  That means it took 16
times more energy to produce a CFL. The study did not include the fact
that a CFL is much heavier and is more dangerous to handle, and will
thus cost more to package, to ship, and to sell.

This research also did not calculate the energy required to safely
dispose of a CFL and reclaim the mercury. The cost of removing mercury
from the landfills was also not considered. More over, the potential
cost in destroyed lives, illnesses, and lost human productivity due to
exposure to mercury and electromagnetic radiation have not been

If such a study could be done, and considered all the negative
contributing factors, it would show a CFL has a massive carbon
footprint, one that would dwarf a regular incandescent light bulb and
it would also show that CFLs will leave behind a wake of environmental

CFLs Do Not Save On Energy Consumption

Power Factor
An incandescent bulb has a power factor of 1. Most CFLs sold in Canada
have a power factor of about 0.55.  That means there are about 45% more
energy losses in operating the CFL compared to an incandescent bulb.
This does not show up on a power bill but the power company has to
supply about 45% more power than what the bulb is rated for.
Astonishingly, CFLs can take almost twice as much energy to operate
than what is on the label and still be listed as an energy star
product, something few consumers know. CFL cheerleaders seldom tell
consumers that the power factor is not included in their energy
consumption calculations.

Heat Loss
Energy efficient bulbs increase greenhouse gases. Because they burn
cooler, they cause home heating costs to rise. “Lighting regulations
(banning incandescent lights) will increase GHG emissions inHydro’s
service territory by 45,000 tons due to cross effects of a switch to
cool-burning bulbs,” explained a BC Hydro spokesperson in 2009Vancouver
Sun article.

The ”˜cross effect’ referred to is the loss of heat from hotter
incandescent bulbs when we switch over to cooler burning CFLs.  When a
60watt regular bulb is replaced with a 15 watt CFL, 45watts of heat
from inside a house is lost. If that is repeated 20 times, 900watts of
lost heat now has to be provided for from another source.

To make up for the lost heat consumers have to turn up electric
heating, or worse still, turning up their oil or gas furnace which will
leave them consuming even more energy and creating more greenhouse
gases than before they made the switch.  In the summertime, because of
longer natural daytime light, both lighting and heating are used much
less. In the wintertime power consumption will rise as lights go on but
additional substitution heat is required to compensate for less heat
from the CFLs.

Considering the lower power factor as well as the heating losses, it
can be concluded that using CFL will not reduce a consumer’s carbon
footprint when compared to a regular light bulb. Moreover, instead of
saving energy there is good evidence demonstrating that using CFLs will
increase the user’s carbon footprint.

CFLs Are Dumb Power

Lighting is a fraction of overall energy consumption and has a limited
potential for energy savings.  Nevertheless, North Americans should be
conserving wherever possible.  At the same time, people should not
forget that switching incandescent bulbs to CFLs poses a whole range of
negative environmental and health impacts with very little, if any,
energy savings
An electric hot water tank consumes five times as much electricity as
residential lighting.

To put lighting energy consumption into perspective, the Sector
Sustainability Table listed in theGovernment of Canadawebsite reports
that  “Homes consume 16% of all the energy used in Canada, with
lighting using 5% of that figure. Residential lighting therefore
represents 0.8% of the total energy consumption in Canada. This means
that Canadians are spending millions of dollars on CFLs in a fruitless
effort to reduce a fraction of their energy consumption.”

It would be much ”˜power smarter’ to focus on residential water heating
than light bulbs.  An electric hot water tank consumes five times as
much electricity as residential lighting. If hot water heating was made
10% more efficient by using inexpensive technology already available,
Canadians would save more energy than the most wildly optimistic
predictions of savings by CFL promoters. It would be cheaper, simpler,
and have no detrimental environmental effects.

CFLs Are Mercury Polluters

More than 98% of used CFLs end up in landfills each year. That is 675
million for the year 2007 according to the National Geographic Society.
Each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of elemental mercury as well as
other poisonous gases.  When mercury enters water sources, biological
processes change the chemical form to methylmercury which is the
organic, more toxic form found in fish.  Methylmercury bio-accumulates
through the food chain and once in the body can affect developing
fetuses, children and adult nervous systems.

Methylmercury will not stay in landfills as it easily gets transported
through the water table. Throwing CFLs into landfills will contaminate
the soil, the water table and eventually the air.

More than 60,000 children are born each year in the United States with
neurodevelopment impairments caused by exposure in the womb to
methylmercury compounds, according to new estimates by an expert panel
convened by the National Academy of Science’s Year 2000.

Beware of a broken CFL, as each broken lamp should be considered
similar to a toxic spill and care needs to be taken cleaning them up.
The manufacturing of CFLs also exposes workers to toxic levels of
mercury. CFLs are manufactured mostly in China with virtually no
health, safety, or environmental protection regulations.  Ironically,
most of the electricity used to manufacture CFLs comes from coal-fired
generators. As CFLs increase in popularity, mercury exposure to
workers, to electricians, to maintenance personal, to consumers, to
water supplies, and to the living environment, will go ahead almost

How many resources and pollutants does it take to make a light bulb?

“The reality is, even energy-efficient products don’t always come from
energy-efficient beginnings.  Consider for a second what goes into
producing, powering and transporting products around the world
like…energy efficient light bulbs. Until they are manufactured in a
carbon-neutral way, transported on low-emission vehicles and powered in
our homes by cleaner energy””green products will never be as green as
they can be,” explained theWorld Wild Life Fund inMacLean’s Magazine.

Many environmentalists ignore these facts and instead claim that CFLs
put less mercury into the environment than what would have been created
via a smoke stack to generate the additional electricity needed for
regular light bulbs.  This is not true.  Not all electricity is
generated by dirty coal-fired plants. Even if it was, this would still
be an irrelevant point given that coal fired power plants could operate
with 80% less mercury emissions. In any event, it does not apply to BC
where 90% of electrical power comes from hydroelectric dams according
toBC Hydro. In Canada, 58% of electrical generation is from hydro and
19% from coal, according toIndustry Canada.

CFLs Are Electro-Polluters

CFLs emit electromagnetic radiation, a type of energy that can make
people very sick. Many people have reported skin rashes and irritation
due to ultra-violet (UV) radiation. Radio frequency radiation is even
more of a concern.  The effects of exposure to radio frequency
radiation, as well as to high voltage spikes and transients, are known
to cause illness, are virtually ignored by environmental groups and
green building consultants alike.

There has been a ”˜rash’ of health problems associated with exposure to
electromagnetic radiation such as that emitted by CFLs.

In Sweden, according to polls, up to 290,000 people, or more than 3% of
the population, have reported suffering symptoms of EHS when exposed to
electromagnetic radiation.  Symptoms range from joint stiffness,
chronic fatigue, headaches, tinnitus, respiratory, gastric, skin, sleep
and memory problems, depressive tendencies, to Alzheimer’s disease and
all classes of cancer.

Hope For The Future

Other than theWorld Wildlife Fund, almost all the major environmental
groups have not informed the public about the dark side of CFLs. Why
they behave as they do is unknown but promoting CFLs could potentially
diminish these groups credibility when the facts become apparent.

Hopefully, other governments will wake up to the shortcomings of CFLs,
and follow the New Zealand government’s example and change their
policies on banning incandescent lights due to concerns about safety
and energy efficiency of the CFLs. Germany has already restricted the
use of fluorescent lighting in public places and has banned fluorescent
lights in hospitals perhaps showing that this issue is too great to be
shrugged off and ignored. North America appears to be headed in the
opposite direction and the Canadian Federal government still plans to
ban all incandescent lights before year 2012.

There are incandescent light bulbs on the market right now that last
longer than CFLs and are 80% more efficient than a regular bulb.  In
2010, surprisingly, just as the market gets saturated with CFLs,
General Electric is coming out with a new high efficiency incandescent
bulb. They claim it will be twice as efficient as a regular bulb.

If they live up to their claims these new incandescent lights will
rival CFLs for energy consumption, but will not have all the other
environmental problems. Then another buying craze will begin and CFLs
may begin to be phased out, leaving behind a long-term problem of
mercury disposal, remediation, and an untold toll on human health.

In the meantime, the best way for you to reduce your carbon footprint
is to follow your mother’s advice and turn the lights off when you
leave the room.

Walt McGinnis is a Licensed Electrician and an Electromagnetic
Radiation Tester and a member of the EM Radiation Task Force, living on
Vancouver Island, Canada. Visit:

Deadlier thyroid cancers more common after radiation exposure, study

Last Updated: Monday, April 20, 2009 |

Thyroid cancer seems to be more aggressive in patients who were exposed
to radiation at work or for treatment of another condition, a Canadian
study says.

Survivors of atomic bombs and children living near areas contaminated
by the 1986 nuclear reactor accident in Chernobyl in the Ukraine
suggest radiation is linked to both benign and malignant thyroid
tumours, according to the study in the April issue of the Archives of
Otolaryngology ”” Head & Neck Surgery.

“[T]his study suggests that patients who have been exposed to radiation
have more aggressive disease and worse clinical outcome than other
patients with thyroid cancer and, therefore, may require more
aggressive treatment,” Dr. Jeremy Freeman of Mount Sinai Hospital in
Toronto and his colleagues concluded in the study.

To come to that conclusion, Freeman’s team compared 125 thyroid cancer
patients who had been exposed to radiation at least three years before
their cancer surgery with a similar group of 574 male and female
patients of the same ages who also had thyroid cancer but were not
exposed to radiation beforehand.

Over an average of 10.6 years of followup, the radiation-exposed group
was more likely to:
•     Have their thyroid removed (83 per cent versus 38 per cent in the
group that wasn’t exposed to radiation).
•     Need more surgery (23 per cent versus two per cent).
•     Have advanced stage IV disease (16 per cent versus five per cent).
•     Have distant metastases, or spread far from the original site (nine
per cent versus two per cent).
•     Have thyroid cancer at followup (eight per cent versus three per
•     Have died of the disease (four per cent versus 1.5 per cent).

Of the patients explosed to radiation, 56 per cent had a history of
direct radiation exposure to the head and neck, usually to treat acne
or another benign condition.

In the radiation exposure group, 23 per cent had occupational or
diagnostic exposures, such as radiographic technicians, dental
assistants or patients exposed to repeated imaging procedures; 11 per
cent had environmental exposures, such as those in Chernobyl; and four
per cent had received radioactive iodine treatment.

Aggressive treatment

The average age at first exposure to radiation was 19.4 years, and
cancers were diagnosed an average of 28.7 years later.

It is difficult to determine the dose of radiation in this type of
study, and surgeons and pathologists may have reported cases
differently, the study’s authors acknowledged.

“Despite this, the differences observed between groups … must be taken
seriously, and they suggest the need not only for further careful study
but also consideration of more aggressive treatment of malignant
thyroid nodules in patients who were exposed to radiation compared with
those who were not.”

It could be that exposure to radiation activates a gene found in
cancers of the thyroid gland, which causes tumours to act more
aggressively, the researchers speculated.

Last week, the Canadian Cancer Society noted that more cases of thyroid
cancer are being diagnosed, particularly among young people. The uptick
in cases, which was estimated to be 4,300 in 2008 across the country,
is attributed to improvements in diagnostic technology.


Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority: Children’s mobile phone use
should be limited

Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has prepared a
position paper, according to which children’s mobile phone use should
be restricted for example by favouring text messages instead of
talking. Although research to date, has not demonstrated health effects
from mobile phone?s radiation, precaution is recommended for children
as all of the effects are not known. Position paper is published (in
Finnish) in the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority?s website.

In relation to mobile phones children are given special consideration.
They will have more time to use a mobile phone for a longer period of
time than adults who started using mobile phones more than 10 years
ago. The long-term risks from the use of mobile phones can not be
assessed before the phones have been in use for several decades.
Additionally, children’s brains are developing up to the age of 20

“With children, we have reason to be especially careful, because there
is not enough research on children’s mobile phone use. Unfortunately,
it will not be easy to obtain this information in the future, either,
because of ethical considerations, the use of children as research
subjects must always be heavily justified”, according to STUK research
director Sisko Salomaa.

STUK position paper notes that the children’s mobile phone use could
be, restricted in the following ways:

favouring the use of text messages rather than calls,

parents limiting the number of calls and their duration,

children can be advised in the use of hands-free devices, which reduces
the exposure significantly. When communicating on the hands-free device
the phone should be kept a couple of centimetres away from the body,

talking in an area with low connectivity or in a moving car or a train
should be avoided.

However STUK does not deem it justified to ban children’s use of mobile
phones altogether. As mobile phones also promote security, since it
facilitates easy communication with parents.

If an adult is concerned about their own exposure, it can be reduced in
the same way as mentioned above for children.

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