The combined effect of recent environmental campaigns and technological advancements has increased the market for energy-efficient lighting.

However, this shift has brought to light a new issue: the threat of health issues caused by lighting technologies.

But is there really a cause for concern, or are we just worrying over nothing?

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of lighting and discuss their health effects while focusing on their potential carcinogenic potential.

Which Lighting Technologies May Cause Cancer?

High exposure to blue light from LEDs increases the risk of cancer. In addition, fluorescent lights produce blue light, making it likely that they can cause cancer following extensive exposure.

Additionally, fluorescent bulbs emit UV radiation, albeit in small amounts, which is harmless if you’re more than a foot away from the source.

Cancer Risks Associated with Different Light Sources

It’s quite understandable that people are concerned about long-term exposure to new, energy-efficient light technologies.

Let’s review various lighting technologies to see how these light sources affect your health.


Hand holding two LED bulbs opposite one another against greenery
While the blue light from LEDs may cause cancer, more research is needed before jumping to conclusions.

LEDs are currently the most energy-efficient light source. Even though they have a relatively high up-front cost, their energy-saving capacity has made them a popular choice for different lighting applications.

They pass an electric current through a microchip powering light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which results in visible light.

LEDs resolve the performance issues of their predecessors by incorporating a heat sink for heat dissipation.

The main concern surrounding LEDs is their blue light emission. White LEDs are actually blue LEDs with a yellow phosphor coating.

Therefore, these light sources produce blue light, a cancer risk factor.

The most conclusive studies on the connection between LEDs and cancer have been done on outdoor lighting.

Research conducted in Madrid and Barcelona showed that people exposed to higher levels of blue light were twice as likely to develop prostate and breast cancer.

The underlying theory is that blue light affects human circadian rhythms, influencing hormone levels.

Breast and prostate cancer are hormone-related, making it more likely for a person to develop them if they are more exposed to blue light.

Fluorescent Lights

Illuminated fluorescent bulb against a reflective black backdrop.
Fluorescent bulbs may cause cancer, especially the CFL variety.

We often use fluorescent bulbs in work environments because of their affordability, energy efficiency, and low maintenance costs.

However, their popularity has diminished recently because they use mercury vapor to produce UV rays.

Though these UV rays are converted to visible light by their phosphor coating, there have been misgivings about the leakage of UV rays from their tubes.

These light sources use a chemical reaction between mercury and halogen gases to produce UV rays. The UV rays interact with the phosphor powder coating inside the tube, producing visible light.

A 2009 Canadian study on the radiation emission of CFLs found that the bulbs do give off UV rays.

A CFL is a fluorescent bulb with a tube twisted into a spiral shape. The study showed that the bulbs did not give off enough radiation to cause significant health effects unless they were within a foot of the user.

Fluorescent tubes proved even less likely to cause harmful effects because their cylindrical shapes are more effective at containing radiation.

Others may argue that the possible leakage of UV rays from fluorescent tubes is enough reason for alarm. With time, fluorescent lights may develop breaks in the phosphor coating, allowing some UV rays to leak out.

Prolonged exposure to UV rays is known to cause skin cancer, making concerns about fluorescent lighting somewhat viable.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are the traditional bulbs that most households used before their replacement by more energy-efficient technologies.

A row of illuminated incandescent bulbs in a dark environment

The bulb consists of a glass enclosure, inert gases, a tungsten filament, and a bulb base with electric contacts.

Incandescent lights work by the incandescence principle, where the light filament heats up till it produces light.

These light sources do not cause cancer. They do not contain blue light or produce UV radiation, making it very unlikely that they would cause cancer.

Additionally, none of their components are toxic, making them safe to use.

However, they consume much more energy than the average LED bulb or fluorescent tube. This property makes them harmful to the environment, thus their diminished use today.

Lighting from Smart Devices

A woman holding glasses pinches her nose, dealing with eye strain from a lack of energy-efficient LED bulbs
Your smart devices, while they emit blue light, don’t cause cancer. They will lead to eye strain though!

Smart devices have become part and parcel of everyday life. Most people today own at least a smartphone.

Also, it’s commonplace to have a range of smart devices like smart TVs, laptops, tablets, and smartwatches.

The point here is that all these emit blue light (given that most use LED lighting technology).

Many believe that the blue light from smart device screens can cause cancer.

Such rumors have terrified users and discouraged them from putting their smartphones in their front pockets for fear of heart issues.

Others think they may develop cancer if they leave their phones under their pillows.

Though blue light is known to disrupt the circadian rhythm, no conclusive studies have proven that light from smart devices can cause cancer.

Other Health Effects of Various Lighting Technologies

Besides the risk of developing cancer, other health issues may arise due to exposure to different light sources. Common health problems you may encounter include the following.

Eye Strain

Sometimes, your eyes may feel tired after watching TV or spending hours under a bright white light. This condition is often caused by cool light like blue or white light from a fluorescent bulb.

Smart devices like laptops, tablets, TVs, and smartphones usually emit blue light. It contains a lot of energy, producing a harsh effect that causes eye fatigue.

Fluorescent lighting is also often responsible for eye strain, as it emits UV radiation and is susceptible to UV ray leakage.

Again, exposure to UV radiation can cause eye fatigue/strain.

If you experience eye strain after time on your smartphone or computer, here are some quick remedies:

● Take screen breaks regularly to give your eyes time to relax.

● Adjust the settings on your devices to enable a blue light filter that reduces the emission of blue light. This feature makes it easier to keep working without harming your eyes.


Studies show that people working in environments with constant harsh white lighting, usually from fluorescent bulbs, complain about exhaustion compared to their counterparts exposed to natural lighting.

However, this could be countered by the fact that most people who work outdoors are usually on their feet for a considerable amount of time.

In contrast, those who work indoors are usually seated in one position for hours at a time.

Man at a business meeting in a suit yawning while two female colleagues are in the background
All that white light in your office makes you more tired, not less!

Therefore, other factors like bad posture and staying in one place for a long time should also be considered.

Staring at computer and smartphone screens for long periods also causes fatigue. Sometimes, you may even experience headaches because of the constant exposure to blue light.

Whenever this happens, give yourself a few minutes without interacting with a screen.

You can go for a short walk or visit the bathroom if you cannot leave the building.

Disrupted Sleep

Research has shown that exposure to blue light at night can interfere with the human circadian rhythm. Smart devices, LEDs, and fluorescent lights are usually responsible for this emission.

Blue light from these sources mimics the blue component of sunlight, though at a lower intensity, tricking the body into thinking it is still daytime.

As a result, you may stay up longer than you would have if you had not been exposed to blue light.

Specialists advise consumers to dim their lights two hours before they go to bed so they can have an easy time falling asleep.

Keeping their smart devices away before bed can also enhance their sleep experience.

Maintaining these practices can help you develop a healthy sleep schedule, keeping you fresh throughout the day. It also aids in regulating your hormones since the circadian rhythm affects your hormone levels.

Final Word

Energy efficiency is one of the top considerations on every buyer’s list looking for a new light source.

We solved the issue of energy efficiency by introducing more efficient LEDs. However, a new one sprung up: the potential carcinogenic properties of these lighting technologies.

LEDs contain blue light, which links to cancer development in those exposed to it. Fluorescent lights emit UV radiation known for their contribution to the development of skin cancer.

Nonetheless, conclusive studies are yet to establish a link between cancer development and exposure to blue light from smart devices.

Luckily, all those years of exposure to the light of incandescent bulbs have not been harmful because studies show that it does not produce any harmful radiation and therefore does not cause cancer.

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