Your home, office, and just about anywhere you go is filled with light fixtures, probably way more than you even notice. The truth is, the direction that interior design has gone, we end up with way more lights than we used to so there are options of how to light a room, often including dimmable lights (we’ll get to those later).
Have you ever thought about whether these lights are safe, or if they give off EMF radiation? Well, in this article i’m going to dive pretty deep into this topic. We’ll talk about whether light bulbs give off radiation, if so how much radiation, how to measure and detect this radiation, and what you can do about it.
If you’ve been a fan of EMF Academy for a while, you probably already know that I wrote an article a little while back on The Safest Light Bulbs (Spoiler: Incandescent). So, in this article we’re really going to stay focused on radiation from light bulbs and why that matters, as well as talk about some solutions.
So, let’s get started.
Light Bulbs and EMF Radiation – The Important Facts
The bottom line is that not every light bulb is created equal, not even close in fact.
Let’s start off with smart light bulbs, which are growing more and more popular.
These are essentially LED light bulbs that have a small computer chip built-in that allows them to connect to your home WiFi and be controllable via your phone.
If you’ve ever been in someone’s house and they showed off the ability to change the colors of all their lights, or ask their Amazon Alexa device to dim the lights, then you know what I’m talking about.
Adding devices that use your home WiFi can be convenient, but will increase the amount of Radio Frequency Radiation (RF) you’re exposed to. In fact, I have many articles on the potential dangers of WiFi radiation, how to protect yourself from it, and why you should consider turning it off at night.
On top of that, you also have to look at how these lights are controlled. If they are LED they likely have the capability of being dimmed via a dimmer switch, which can result in a large amount of EMF radiation being emitted into your house via dirty electricity. I won’t go into this topic here, because I already have other articles on it, but it’s a good thing to know.
So, the bottom line is that modern light bulbs are very different than the incandescent ones we used to see everywhere, and this has it’s own lists of pro’s and cons.
Obviously we’re presented with tons of opportunities to better control the lighting of our homes, and in more convenient ways. However, as we’ll talk about in this article, the big downside is that we’re introducing electrosmog into our home environment, which may not be worth it in the long run.
How Much Radiation Do Lightbulbs Emit?
I did my own mini-study of how much electromagnetic radiation (EMF) various light bulbs emitted, doing my best to factor our other sources of radiation.
I went to a few different local homes and offices, and measured modern LED light bulbs to see how much radiation they emitted and here is what I found:
I measured primarily LED light bulbs, and was unable to measure any of the WiFi connected ones, once I can do that I’ll add the info to this article.
Out of the three kinds of EMF radiation: magnetic field, electric field, and radio frequency, a typical LED light bulb will only emit electric field radiation. Here were my findings:
|Type of Bulb||Direct Contact||1 Inch Away||3 Inches Away||6 Inches Away||1 Foot Away||2 Feet Away|
|LED Bulb||258 V/m||111 V/m||73 V/m||43 V/m||33 V/m||15 V/m|
As you can see, the amount of radiation emitted from light bulbs drops off pretty quickly with distance. This is a rule that is fairly consistent with all types of EMF radiation. In physics, this is called the Inverse Square Law, and essentially it states that as we get farther away from a source of radiation, we have exponentially amounts of protection from that source.
So, if I get twice as far away, I’ll have reduced my radiation exposure by more than double. So, when it comes to radiation from light bulbs, the most radiation you’ll be exposed to is when you’re very close to them. Can lights in the ceiling are unlikely to be much of a concern, but perhaps powerful under cabinet lights in the kitchen might be.
Towards the end of the article, I’ll show you exactly how you can test this out for yourself and see how much EMF radiation your light bulbs are emitting at any given time.
Do Smart light bulbs emit EMF radiation?
Back in the day, when everyone was just using relatively safe incandescent light bulbs, things like “smart” light bulbs weren’t at all a concern. However, today, these WiFi-connected bulbs do pose a greater EMF exposure risk than any other type of lighting.
If you look up smart bulb on Amazon, you’ll see the hundreds of products that are available. These Smart Bulbs connect to the WiFi in your home and allow you to control them usually via an app or your smart home devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
Since they are connected to WiFi, they are drawing more RF radiation from your router and increasing the overall electrosmog in your home. This can easily be measured with an EMF meter.
Many smart bulbs are WiFi enabled so that you can easily control them with your smarthome, while others are simply Bluetooth enabled, meaning you control them either with an included remote, or with your phone by connecting to the Bluetooth bulb.
I’ve talked about the dangers of Bluetooth before, so I won’t go into depth in this article. However Bluetooth still uses a form of RF radiation to transmit the data and therefore has similar potential dangers to WiFi enabled devices.
So, although I’d personally say that a Bluetooth enabled smart bulb is a little better than a WiFi enabled bulb, both emit a fair amount of EMF radiation and should be avoided when possible.
Do Light Bulbs Create Dirty Electricity?
If you’re not quite sure what dirty electricity is, be sure to check out the guide that I wrote, it will walk you through everything you really need to know.
Essentially though, dirty electricity is when currents of electricity get trapped inside electrical lines because the devices using that power are manipulating the way that it was originally designed. Most wiring systems are 60 hertz of AC, which many electronics require more, less, or adjustable amounts of electricity.
The process of changing the electricity interrupts the normally smooth flow and creates instead, spikes and surges of electricity. These spikes and surges are often referred to as “dirty electricity” or “electrical noise.”
The dirty electricity that is stuck in your lines emits EMF radiation into your home. Luckily, you can buy some simple filters to help protect your home from this, you can read about those and see my favorites in this article.
Unfortunately, some types of light bulbs are actually a very common creator of dirty electricity.
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL) use high-frequency AC instead of 60 Hertz. Doing so does allow the light bulbs to be more energy-efficient, and also allowed them to function a bit more conveniently then incandescent bulbs.
However, in order to do this, CFL bulbs use an electronic ballast to first convert the current into DC, and then into high-frequency AC. This is accomplished by “chopping up” the sine waves, which causes spikes of dirty electricity.
Another thing I’ll just mention is that dimmer switches are also fairly major culprits of dirty electricity because of the way they manipulate the electricity in your home, so also be aware of that.
Do Light Bulbs Emit UV (Ultraviolet Radiation)?
The simple answer is yes, some light bulbs do emit UV radiation (thanks Sciencing for the info), but it really depends on what kind of light bulb we’re talking about. Also, I just want to be clear that the UV radiation I’m talking about in this section really has nothing to do with the EMF radiation I’ve been talking about so far in this article.
Most light bulbs are capable of emitting small amounts of UV radiation, but it’s almost always in the accepted safe limits. According to the National Institute for Health, CFL light bulbs are potentially the worst. They do have the potential of emitting UV light, which if you know much about UV rays you know that it has the potential for causing negative health effects like skin cancer and premature aging, which is why UV radiation is typically such a concern.
Now let’s talk briefly about fluorescent bulbs or fluorescent lamps. Fluorescent bulbs have a simple electric current that rests inside a low-pressure mercury-vapor which does produce ultraviolet light. However, these fluorescent bulbs basically always have a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb, which, when struck by the light, emits white light.
This coating can wear away with time, and can also occasionally have leaks, which can let out some UV light.
Halogen bulbs are probably the worst offender when it comes to emitting UV radiation. In fact, according to a study called “The risk of ultraviolet radiation exposure from indoor lamps in lupus erythematosus” published in 2010, researchers stated that:
“Halogen lamps emit significant levels of ultraviolet radiation and should be doped or covered with glass prior to use.”
Standard Incandescent Bulbs, which many (including myself) consider to be the safest light bulbs, also sort of emit UV light. In fact they actually emit a very broad spectrum of visible light, a very small part of which is ultraviolet. However, as incandescent bulbs have evolved, they’ve also been created in a way that dramatically reduces the amount of UV, especially as the health problems of UV have become more known.
Finally, let’s talk about the ever-popular LED (light-emitting diode). LED’s produce light from a semiconductor material and usually consist of a single light color, they are also one of the most energy-efficient light bulbs. LED’s usually use phosphor (the same phosphor we talked about above) to convert the naturally blue light into a whiter light. The blue light produced from the LED’s has virtually no UV however, so in this regard it’s not much of a concern. However, the potential health risks of blue is a discussion for another article.
Should You Replace Your Light Bulbs? (And How To Do It)
Now that we know quite a bit more about how light bulbs work, why they emit UV and EMF radiation, and why this matters, let’s talk about what we can actually do about it.
The first thing that we should consider doing is a quick audit of the light sources in our house, particularly the bulbs we spend the most time around and see what kind of bulbs they are, and how much EMF radiation they emit.
I mention this in my articles all the time, but genuinely one of the absolute best things you can do for yourself if you’re at all worried about exposure to electromagnetic fields is to get a quality EMF meter. I personally use and recommend the Trifield TF2 by Alphalabs, which you can get on Amazon.
The nice thing about the Trifield, other than it’s fair price and accuracy, is that fact that it measures all three kinds of EMF radiation and is very user friendly. However, you can check out my full guide of the best EMF meters if you want to find the one that is best for your needs.
Now that we have our EMF meter in hand, we’re going to check out the bulbs in our house. For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to ignore things like energy efficiency. Although using less energy is always a great thing, we’re primarily focused on safety right now.
So, go through your house, particularly the areas where you spend the most time, and measure the amount of radiation emitted from your bulbs while they are on and running. Make notes in a notebook about the location of each bulb, what type of bulb it was, and the reading you got.
Once you’re done, go back through your notebook and determine where your largest sources of radiation were and what kind of light bulbs were emitting the radiation.
Now you have all the information you need to reduce the radiation from your light bulbs.
So the next question is what kind of bulbs should you be using instead?
Low EMF Light Bulbs (What You Should Be Using)
Without a doubt, the safest and lowest EMF light bulbs that you can get are simple incandescent bulbs, and this is for several reasons.
- Incandescent bulbs were actually designed to use the 60 Hertz electrical wiring in most homes, which means they produce no dirty electricity whatsoever.
- They do not produce any RF radiation, because they are not smart bulbs and therefore do not connect via WiFi or Bluetooth. They also produce quite a bit less electric field radiation then a CFL or LED bulbs.
Incandescent lamps and bulbs do have their downsides, especially when it comes to energy efficiency, and how long they last, but they are much safer when it comes to radiation exposure.
They are also fairly inexpensive, in fact I just picked up this pack from Amazon.
Do light bulbs emit anywhere near as much radiation as a cell-phone, WiFi router, or laptop? Certainly not. However, the one thing we do know about EMF radiation is that the real danger is cumulative exposure, so any way that we can that exposure is a really good thing.
If you aren’t already doing many of the things I recommend to lower your exposure to EMF radiation, I would start by reading other articles on this website before you start replacing light bulbs, however, I do think that this is really good information to know.
If you have any questions about what I talked about in this article, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.