Recently in my local newspaper there was an article about CFL light bulbs. This can be read here. If you have read this or have CFL’s in your home please take time to read this.
Using the argument that ‘because we have always done it so it must safe’ should never be made. There is a reason we have done away with mercury filled thermometers. Mercury is toxic at any level. Even more toxic for pregnant women and children. However, besides the mercury issue there are many more factors that make CFL’s toxic. The mercury in them is just one.
All fluorescent lighting will give off a radio frequency because this is part of the process for them to make light. If a person is standing near this type of lighting it will generate current within a person’s body the closer that you stand next to it. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recognizes that at 18 microamps biological processes relevant to cancer take place. This is almost 1/1000 of what a regular outlet is rated for. If you were to stand near a CFL you will be over this. If you have one in a lamp by your bed or on your desk, chances are you are over this. This can be easily measured with a voltmeter (FLUKE 187,189 or 287 can all do this) or you can even capture the waveform with an oscilloscope. This is not the only radio frequency that fluorescents will generate.
Almost all fluorescent light bulbs and CFL’s will add a radio frequency back onto your building’s wires. These are harmonics which can be called high frequency voltage transients, or easier referred to as dirty electricity. This too is easily measured with either an oscilloscope or a Mircosurge Meter. There are numerous research papers that talk of the health implications of being around areas that have high levels of dirty electricity. Cancer once again is one, but there are many more.
In order, to achieve energy efficiency, we have gone from linear loads (primary used in the 70’s) to non-linear loads today. The ubiquitous use of non-linear loads (all our electronics are non-linear) has also created issues for the utility companies. The byproduct of achieving energy efficient products are harmonics which are normally left unaccounted for, mainly because of the belief that since it is a small amount it is ok. These small amounts add up and what you are left with thus is ground current, (since neutral and ground are bonded). In many places the primary neutral return is too small to carry the load. The harmonics generated from all these devices are in the frequency of radio waves and it is possible then to pick these up with an AM radio, either one that is hand held or even in your car radio. The buzzing sound that you hear in your AM radio or the reason that your AM station cuts when driving by power lines is due to our use of non-linear loads and ‘green’ energy.
If you are looking for energy efficient light bulbs look to LED instead. Be careful though as many LED’s will also create dirty electricity. You must test them to find out which ones don’t.