Energy-saving bulbs release cancer-causing chemicals
TH fears were raised Tuesday night over the use of energy saving lightbulbs after a report claimed they contain cancer causing chemicals.
Scientists warn that prolonged contact with the European Union-imposed bulbs could put people at risk after discovering that they pulse out poisonous materials when switched on.
The bulbs are already widely used in Britain after the EU ordered all traditional incandescent lightbulbs to be phased out by the end of this year. While it was known that harmful amounts of mercury are released if one of the new green bulbs breaks, experts have now discovered they also emit several carcinogenic chemicals.
These include phenol a poison used by the Nazis to kill concentration camp victims and the toxins naphthalene and styrene, which are released as a form of steam when the bulb is switched on. The German scientists behind the report advise that the bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, especially near a persons head.
Researcher Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the independent Berlin Alab Laboratory, said: For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment. He said the bulbs could be especially harmful if left on near a childs head all night or used to read by for long periods near an adult.
Andreas Kirchner of the Federation of German Engineers, said: Electrical smog develops around these lamps. I, therefore, use them only very economically. They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head.
Experts in Britain insisted the risks were relatively small and urged people not to panic but admitted more research was needed.
Dr Michelle Bloor, senior lecturer in Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, said: Further independent studies would need to be undertaken to back up the presented German research.
However, the study reopens the row over Brussels decision to impose the bulbs, known as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
When the findings were broadcast in Germany earlier this week, the countrys environmental protection agency was forced to issue a warning against public hysteria. The existence of phenol in the bulbs is particularly alarming. The same substance was used by the Nazis as a means of killing thousands during the Second World War.
Manfred Santen, a chemistry expert from Greenpeace, said: The German research council classifies phenol and the related cresol as possibly carcinogenic; the European Union regards it at least as genetically damaging. There are thus good reasons to stop emissions of these substances, however small they may be.
Some councils in Britain have already refused to pick up the new bulbs because of the risk from mercury. But the Department for the Environment remains adamant that CFLs are safe.
According to advice on its website: Energy efficient light bulbs are not a danger to the public. Although they contain mercury, limited at 5mg per lamp, it cannot escape from a lamp that is intact. In any case, the very small amount contained in an energy efficient bulb is unlikely to cause harm even if the lamp should be broken.
Despite this, the Government website warns that anyone breaking a low energy bulb should ventilate the room and wait at least 15 minutes before clearing up the breakage using rubber gloves.
It continues: Put the broken pieces of glass into a plastic bag and seal it. You must not throw the bag in your normal household rubbish but take it to your local waste and recycling centre. Daily Express