NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Eco-Friendly Light Bulbs Contain Dangerous Substances

February 16, 2011

Small holiday LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, marketed as eco-friendly alternatives to traditional light bulbs, contain lead, arsenic and a dozen other potentially hazardous substances, according to a team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of California, Davis.

  • The low-intensity red LEDs in Christmas lighting strands had up to eight times the amount of lead allowed under California law.
  • The white bulbs had less lead than the colored ones, but they still had high levels of nickel.

The research comes amid consumer angst about the Congress-mandated phaseout of Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulbs, which starts next year with the 100-watt bulb.  California began the phaseout last month, a year early.

The researchers also found toxic substances in red, yellow and green traffic lights, household replacements for incandescent, automobile headlights and brake lights, but the official findings will not be released until they are peer-reviewed in a few months.

Source: Wendy Koch, "Tiny LED Holiday Bulbs Contain Lead, Arsenic," USA Today, February 10, 2011.

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