The Health Risks of Energy Saving Light Bulbs
The energy crisis has us tripping over ourselves finding ways and means of using this resource more wisely and efficiently. This has led to the emergence of energy saving light bulbs.
While these light bulbs most certainly are energy savers, they can be a little more expensive. The costs, however, are offset by their long life as compared to regular light bulbs. One would thus think that they contribute towards your home’s energy efficiency, and you would be right. However, there is a cost involved in saving money. The cost may just so happen to be your health.
Dangers Associated with Energy Saving Light Bulbs
- Energy saving light bulbs contain mercury, a powerful neurotoxin. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible as it is particularly toxic to the nervous system, brain, kidneys, and liver, and can have a debilitating effect on an unborn fetus. Mercury may also have an adverse effect on your immune, cardiovascular, and reproductive system.
- Energy saving light bulbs may also increase the risk of certain types of cancer as they contain a number of carcinogens. These include phenol (a crystal derived from coal tar that is commonly used in the chemical industry), naphthalene (a flammable compound crystal formed when coal tar is distilled), and styrene (a by-product of petroleum).
- Energy saving light bulbs emit UV-B and UV-C radiation. UV radiation may cause skin cancer and cause damage to your eyes. This may result in damage to the immune system and skin tissue as it prohibits vitamin D formation in your body. It may also cause cell death.
- Energy saving light bulbs may disrupt your sleep patterns as they emit a blue light that closely mimics natural sunlight, thereby inhibiting your body’s melatonin production.
- Energy saving light bulbs may generate powerful electromagnetic fields (EMF) for up to one meter. The electromagnetic fields may also result in what is termed ‘dirty electricity’ as it travels through your home’s electrical wiring. This ‘dirty electricity’ may increase your chances of contracting cancer. EMFs are also genotoxic as they work on your DNA molecules, thereby affecting changes to your genes.
What to Do When an Energy Saving Light Bulb Breaks
It is predicted that discarded and broken energy saving light bulbs are responsible for the release of up to four tons of mercury into the environment each year. Some of this mercury may be in your home! Therefore, when an energy saving light bulb breaks in your home, use extreme caution during the cleaning up process:
- Evacuate the home immediately (including pets)
- Open windows and doors
- Shut down all air conditioning units, the HVAC, and furnace
- Do not use a vacuum cleaner of broom as these spread the mercury
- Clean up with cardboard, sticky tape, and a damp paper towel
- Place everything into a glass jar and seal the lid, taping it shut for extra safety
- Dispose of via channels as recommended by your local authorities
- Stay out of your home for a few hours (remember to leave doors and windows open)
Health Risks Associated with Energy Saving Light Bulbs
Besides interfering with your brain’s melatonin production, vitamin D formation, the risk of certain cancers, and the other health risks already mentioned, energy saving light bulbs are also associated with:
- Headaches and migraines
- Brain fog (inability to concentrate)
These and several of the symptoms mentioned earlier are also symptoms that are commonly associated with adrenal fatigue.
The Effect of Energy Saving Light Bulbs on Adrenal Fatigue
Many symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue (AF) closely correlate to those that result from energy saving light bulbs, especially when looking at AF due to toxicity and electromagnetic radiation. This is because the adrenal glands may become dysregulated by both these elements.
The adrenal glands, as part of the body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) response system, tend to increase their cortisol production when the body is subjected to stress.
The EMF emitted by energy saving light bulbs dampers the cortisol production needed for normalizing blood sugar levels. Cortisol acts in such a way that your body increases its blood sugar levels during stressful periods giving it the ability to escape from an encounter if needed. Working together with insulin, cortisol ensures that the cells in your body receive the glucose they need for sustained function. Where the earlier stages of AF see increased cortisol production, the latter stages see a severe decline.
Cortisol also plays a role in inflammation. It has anti-inflammatory properties that cause a reduction in swelling, while it also has an antihistamine action that prevents allergies from getting worse. Prolonged high cortisol levels suppress inflammation. Additionally, it plays a role in your body’s immune reaction. The higher your cortisol levels, the less your body is able to fight infections.
Cortisol also enables you to cope with stress that is psychological in nature. If your body is not able to produce the cortisol needed to cope, you are no longer able to handle stressful situations.
EMFs and Adrenal Fatigue
Prolonged exposure to the EMFs given out by energy saving light bulbs may cause oxidative damage and deplete your antioxidants and hormones. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is one of these. The result is that your sleep habits are compromised, with insomnia and other sleep difficulties the result. Low melatonin levels have been linked to the occurrence of breast cancer. It also interferes with your cells’ energy producing abilities, thereby increasing your general fatigue.
These EMFs may also have a negative effect on your red blood cells, resulting in less oxygen reaching your brain and other organs. This may result in difficulties with your concentration and dizzy spells.
Those who are exposed to EMFs for long periods may find it difficult to recover from infections, while they may also find they are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. This may result in certain symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, such as fatigue and weakness. It may also lead to an increase in cortisol production which could ultimately lead to adrenal exhaustion. This has the added complication of too little cortisol being released with its own set of negative symptoms and results.
Continuous exposure may also cause abnormal norepinephrine production which leads to disorders of the autonomic nervous system such as difficulty in regulating body temperature, depression, and short term memory loss.
Mercury and Adrenal Fatigue
As previously mentioned, energy saving light bulbs are a cause of mercury toxins in the environment. Mercury, as a toxin, has a major adverse effect on especially the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands, and the male and female gonads (i.e. testes and ovaries). Additionally, it also has a negative impact on your enzyme production processes and hormonal and enzyme functions are affected. You need only very low levels of exposure for mercury to make a significant, negative impact on your well-being.
The thyroid gland, using iodine, is responsible for your body’s metabolic rate. The hypothalamus, which is part of the HPA-axis, sends chemical messengers that trigger the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the pituitary, resulting in the production of Thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). Mercury that has accumulated in your body, however, blocks or inhibits these processes.
Mercury also tends to accumulate in the hypothalamus, thereby affecting hormone secretions in the pituitary as well as the thyroid – thus implicating the functionality of other bodily organs and functions, including the adrenal glands.
Prolonged production of cortisol results in a hormonal imbalance and has a negative influence on your body’s inflammation and immune functions. Mercury has the tendency of accumulating in those parts of the body that experience stress and inflammation – including a stressed adrenal gland. It thus inhibits the proper production and function of adrenal, and other, hormones. It may thus be a contributing factor to instances of adrenal fatigue.
Common symptoms associated with mercury toxicity include:
- A sensitivity to cold
- An increase in allergies
- Weight problems
- Dry hair, skin, and brittle nails
- Memory issues
- Joint and muscle pain
- Increased cholesterol
- Heart palpitations
- Blood pressure problems
- Insulin resistance
UV Light from Energy Saving Light Bulbs and Adrenal Fatigue
Exposure to the sun may actually be good for you, as the sun is our main source of vitamin D. The UV light given off by energy saving light bulbs, however, is very limited. The light given from these light bulbs may interfere with your circadian rhythm while their constant flickering (perhaps even unnoticeable) may have adverse effects on your health and well-being. This typically does not affect most people. However, if you are very sensitive, EMF and light stimulation may make you feel worse.
The sun gives off the full ultra-violet spectrum, and if you do not get enough exposure, your circadian rhythm goes out of sync. This, in turn, affects your hormones. A lot of our body’s chemistry is affected by the day/night cycle. Energy saving light bulbs, although bright light, give only a limited spectrum of UV light although their brightness tends to mimic that of sunlight, at least indoors. This disrupts the circadian rhythm as it makes the body believe that it is still daylight. Dimmer lighting during the evenings, on the other hand, does not have this kind of an effect on the body.
The UV radiation in energy saving light bulbs is UVA and UVB. The UVB, according to some sources, indicate that the UVB radiation emitted by energy light bulbs is between ten to thirty times more than that which you receive from the sun.
Energy saving light bulbs also contain a gas through which electricity passes. This gas tends to flicker when this happens. The flickering may be so fast that you do not consciously perceive it, but your brain may do so on a subconscious level.
Symptoms that this type of light is having a negative effect on your body include:
- Sleeping problems (because of melatonin suppression)
- A poor immune system
- Problems with your endocrine system
- Weight gain
- Breast cancer or breast tumors
- Disruption of the female menstrual cycle and hormones
Beating the Damage Caused by Energy Saving Light Bulbs
If mercury is a factor in your adrenal fatigue, one would think that the first order of business is to detoxify in order to get rid of it. This may not be the best immediate solution, however, as it would only add fuel to the fire because those who already suffer the burden of adrenal fatigue may not have the needed strength to deal with the chelation process.
Once you and your adrenals are stronger, however, you may, under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner, review a detoxification program once more. Strengthening the adrenal glands should be your first priority, besides managing future exposure to energy saving light bulbs.
Addressing the Adrenals
Strengthening the adrenals is a multi-pronged approach, including different aspects such as your diet, environment, exercise, and mental state.
A great diet for those with adrenal fatigue is one that is made up of:
- Fresh vegetables – Great vegetable sources include cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale
- Lean protein such as chicken, turkey, and lean beef
- Healthy fats such as from avocado, olives, and coconut oil
The remainder can include fruit, whole grains, and legumes. Some high-quality salt added to meals can correct your body’s sodium balance.
Foods that should be avoided include:
- Caffeine, whether from coffee or other drinks as it is a stimulant and may cause an adrenal crash.
- Sweeteners, e.g. sugar or honey as it causes a metabolic reaction that could seriously affect your blood sugar levels.
- Hydrogenated oils contain trans fats due to heating that is unhealthy and puts needless stress on your body.
- Refined carbohydrates such as those found in pastries and pasta cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
- Certain fruits such as bananas, grapefruit and dried fruits such as dates, raisins, and figs have high potassium levels which may cause a sodium-potassium imbalance that worsens your condition.
You could also consider taking certain supplements:
- The B vitamins play an important role in the nervous system, optimize brain function and cognitive ability, help prevent nerve damage, and help with both anxiety and depression.
- Vitamin C helps in the production of your body’s anti-stress hormones
- Zinc plays an important role in your body’s immune and inflammatory functions.
- Magnesium can be beneficial to those during the early stages of adrenal fatigue, as high cortisol production depletes your magnesium reserves. It is not uncommon for you to be constipated due to a lack of magnesium at this point. Magnesium should not be considered during the latter stages of adrenal fatigue, however, as it depletes your sodium reserves and may result in a crash.
It is considered best practice to consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements due to the nature of adrenal fatigue – each person’s body, symptoms, and stage of adrenal fatigue varies.
Your environment includes your home and work situation. Where possible, replace energy saving light bulbs with ones that are more conducive to your good health. Also, try to limit your exposure as much as you possibly can.
In instances where an energy saving light bulb breaks, ensure that your exposure to the mercury is limited as far as possible and use the best practices as previously described to clean it up.
Low impact exercise serves to get the blood pumping and boosts your endorphins, i.e. the feel good hormones. Great exercises to consider are walking, slow cycling, yoga, and tai chi. An added benefit of the last two mentioned is that they force you to breathe deeply, a practice that has a calming effect.
4. Your mental state
Your mental state takes to take a bashing when you have adrenal fatigue. Those with the condition usually suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychological symptoms. You may consider seeing a professional about this. However, taking time out to do what makes you happy also helps. This includes spending time with family and friends or taking up a hobby. Anything that makes you happy counts, as taking care of your needs is a step in addressing the myriad symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Are energy saving light bulbs the cause of my fibromyalgia?
It is difficult to determine the cause of fibromyalgia or any other condition involving the endocrine system. However, energy saving light bulbs may contribute to certain symptoms you experience with this condition.