Energy Efficiency EMFs and LEDs

Published on June 9th, 2016 | by Andrea Bertoli


Do LEDs Create EMFs? Looking into the Science Behind EMFs

Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are a hot topic in wellness circles, but how much do we really know about the effects of EMFs on our minds and bodies?

New Technology

Are LED lights an EMF concern?

We wanted to learn more about EMFs generally, and learn whether our wi-fi, Internet of Things and cellphones are actually harming us. But we were especially curious as to how EMFs relate to LED lights: we use LEDs in our home and espouse the values of these super efficient lighting options across our network and in our lives. So we did some digging on this controversial topic. And what we found was… shockingly inconclusive.

Could we be Wrong about EMFs?

Before we dive too deeply, I want to first discuss my thoughts on this. 

While concerns about EMFs can seem a bit irrational– the topic is considered a fringe concern, or one that is ‘just in your head’– I want to explain that I’m open to the idea that the medical and research community doesn’t always have all the answers. I’m also open to the idea that we are at the horizon of this research, and thus results are inconclusive, or worse, are being stifled by industry influence. I’m a healthy skeptic, just like Mark Gibbs of Network World. He asks, “Will we look back (sadly) in fifty or a hundred years and marvel at how Wi-Fi and cellphones were responsible for the biggest health crisis in human history?”

EMFs is a new topic, and I’m really curious to learn as much as I can about it, and I’m generally inclined to believe that yes, our natural systems are being disrupted by excess light, sound, and frequencies in ways we just cannot yet fully explain. With this in mind I dug into the research, and this is what I found.

Starburst Led Floor Colorful Electronic Textured Reflection

What are the Problems with EMFs?

A recent article in CommonGround magazine examines the dangers of EMFs in the home, and how it can upset sleep patterns, brain functioning, inspire headaches, damage digestive health, and – at its most basic– really mess up our cellular functions (that is, body cells, not cell phones).

Author Jeromy Johnson of, wrote, “Items such as solar inverters, CFL and LED lighting, dimmer switches and smart meters will cause ‘dirty electricity’ by putting additional frequencies onto the wiring in your home.” Johnson suggests that while there are ways to reduce this type of ‘pollution’ he really recommends avoiding these (super energy efficient) technologies entirely. It seems that Johnson is truly suffering with this sensitivity, for which I am deeply sympathetic. And while some research (see more about that below) indicates that EMFs do emanate from wi-fi routers, smart meters and cellphones, his take on LED lights is pretty questionable.

In a comment on his site he writes: “The best bulb from a low-EMF point of view is the incandescent.” While he does link to the breakthrough technology at MIT that might help improve the efficiency of incandescents, it does seem strange that the most energy efficient forms of lighting– ones that require less electricity to be used around the home and thus require less coal power plants or fossil fuel energy to create– are somehow better.

It’s no secret that there are fossil fuel industry trolls out there looking to dissuade us from supporting efficiency measures, so it makes me wonder if this is somehow behind Johnson’s claims. In addition, in field testing with a Gauss Meter, Scott Cooney (of Hawaii-based green home service Pono Home) found zero EMFs emitting from any of the hundreds of LED bulbs his company installs for customers.

Research on EMFs and LED lights

As with information about EMFs generally, information about EMFs and LEDs is very scant.

Creating Healthy Homes suggests that the only reason LEDs could produce EMFs is with the creation of ‘dirty electricity,’ which some LEDs allegedly produce, depending on their configuration. They write that, “If an LED bulb has a switched mode power supply, it usually produces dirty electricity but not always. [The] problem with switched mode power supplies is that they reduce voltage and convert from AC to DC by squaring off the sine wave of 60 Hz AC electricity, thereby producing harmonics of dirty electricity as a side effect. These harmonics then radiate off circuits in your walls running throughout the house and from AC power cords that you plug into outlets.”

Another site, Electriclear, quotes from the Electromagnetic Fields by B. Blake Levitt that, “Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are far cleaner [and] emit no EMFs.” But later on their page, they write that “LEDs are extremely low EMF; they do have a small transformer which reduces the voltage to the device, although electriCLEAR uses ‘line-voltage’ LEDs which have no transformer and are truly zero EMF.”

Another source I found about the LED-EMF connection was Natural News, which is not a site I use as a reference very often as they tend toward alarmist. They state that, “LEDs […] do not create EMF dirty electricity–” which is the opposite of what these other sources claim. 

With the exception of Natural News, most of the information about the EMF-LED connection is that the ‘research’ comes from sites that are offering services related to such topics.

What does the Research say about EMFs Generally?

Most of the information available on the internet about EMFs and consequent illness is anecdotal and contradictory. There is some science behind the relationship between EMFs and health issues, but it’s pretty limited. Here’s what seems the most legit:

  • A report showing that EMFs and other types of radiation are a serious concern for children was met with acceptance, as explained by Network World. Forbes has some commonsense guidelines for reducing exposure to radiation for children.
  • Multiple studies link to EMF concerns as it relates to smart meters, although this too is often contradictory and inconclusive. As reported by the Huffington Post, “a 2011 report by the California Council on Science and Technology concludes, ‘Exposure levels from smart meters are well below the [FCC’s established standards] for such [health] effects,’ and ‘There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters.’”
  • The journal Nature explains in a 2015 article (in very dense scientific terms), that perhaps “man-made/polarized EMFs do trigger biological effects,” but they do not go so far as to make recommendations or state real-world examples of concerns.
  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Science says: “At present, the weight of the current scientific evidence has not conclusively linked cell phone use with any adverse health problems, though scientists admit that more research is needed”
  • The WHO states that while “The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans [and] studies are ongoing to more fully assess potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.” However, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” In fact, a 2010 study showed that overuse could be linked to cancer while less-than-average use could be protective, although this too was very contradictory (obviously) and inconclusive.
  • Recently a huge study was completed by the National Toxicology Program finding that, in fact, cell phone radiation can be linked to certain types of brain cancers. However, even this prestigious research came under scrutiny due to some confounding factors. However, most researchers seem confident that this uptick in brain cancers (based on rat studies, poor little rats), could represent a big problem for the population.
  • In a 2015 article, Mother Jones discusses a letter from 195 scientists from 39 countries calling, “the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and national governments to develop stricter controls on these and other products that create electromagnetic fields (EMF).” The letter states that peer-reviewed, published research has shown ‘serious concerns’ regarding the increased exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices, although Slate looks more closely at how this message should be interpreted, saying that there is possibly a connection, but it is too weak for conclusive evidence.
  • The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that at this time there is no evidence to show that using a cell phone causes cancer, but they do offer tips to use your phone in a safer way.

And in Conclusion..?

As I wrote previously here on Green Living Ideas, there is not real evidence proving OR disproving that EMFs generally (or EMFs from LED lights) are really dangerous:

Conspiracy theories abound about the electrosmog that surrounds us, and the potential dangers to our health.

The National Institute of Health states that while there are still speculative concerns about the connection between EMFs and health issues, current research continues to point to a weak association between EMFs and purported ills. However, both the NIH and the World Health Organization concur that more research is needed as scientists have not yet conclusively determined that EMFs are NOT linked to various cancers and health problems.

NIH also reminds us that the strength of EMF radiation is strongest at the source, so to reduce exposure, keep electronics off of the body, and try to keep a distance between electrical appliances and outlets around the home.

One of the things I found most interesting was a study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research that discovered that those dealing with ‘environmental intolerance’ around electromagnetic issues tended to have higher tendency towards behaviors such as obsessive/compulsive behavior, interpersonal hypersensitivity, hostility, phobic anxiety, and paranoid thoughts.

Does this mean that everyone feeling electrosensitivity is making it up? Not necessarily, but it also doesn’t mean that we need to chuck our smart meters, cell phones, and we probably shouldn’t trash our LED lights either. But it does mean that publications like CommonGround shouldn’t publish articles like Johnson’s as fact with little to no evidence backing it up. I think that there is some caution that needs to be taken into consideration when dealing with electricity of any type near our bodies, and that as always, more research is needed.

lightbulbs image and lightburst image from BigStock


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About the Author

A vegan chef, educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in San Francisco, Andrea is also the Accounts Manager for Important Media. Follow her foodie adventures at, Vibrant Wellness Journal, Green Living Ideas and Eat Drink Better. Find more from Andrea on Facebook and Instagram

  • CommonGround. UGH!

  • MM59

    Let this line of your article sink in deeply to your logical mind:
    “as I wrote previously here on Green Living Ideas, there is not real evidence proving OR disproving that EMFs generally (or EMFs from LED lights) are really dangerous:”

    Now go to this NTP presentation, page 13-
    “According to the U.S. FDA in 2000…
    “There is currently insufficient scientific basis for concluding either that wireless communication technologies are safe or that they pose a risk to millions of users.”

    So, no one knows if it is safe or not. But they portray it as safe, don’t they? Keep distance from your body? But they observed everyone using it against their bodies (whether it be their hands, pockets or head), don’t they?

    Now understand that such controversy (whether there are non-thermal effects from EMF’s) is probably 5 decades old and existed at the time of the issuance of the current “guidelines” in 1996.

    What have they done to end that controversy and try to resolve it? Not much, correct? Why?

    So they do this one NTP study that they say is “expensive” – $25 million. It takes over a decade to do, and still is not fully completed. They (US Govt) decline to participate in the European large study called Inter-Phone – why?

    Compare this “expensive” investment in the NTP study to the amount ($1.9 B) they are currently fighting over right now for the “threat” of the Zika virus. What do they know about Zika? How have they proven that Zika causes microcephany? Why does a virus known since 1947, patented by Rockefeller in the 1940’s, only known to cause mild symptoms all of a sudden cause serious damage? What are your risks of zika versus wireless? Can you reconcile the differences in responses to each potential danger?

    My point. The industry transferred liability of the “safeness” of this technology to the people with the issuance of the 1996 RF emission guidelines by the FCC. The FCC is run by industry. Industry and FCC has brought our world from practically nothing wireless to everything wireless (IoT). And not one of them can say anything but “more studies are needed”. When are they going to devote the money and resources to resolve this?

    And the author is wrong about the electro-sensitive –
    “those dealing with ‘environmental intolerance’ around electromagnetic
    issues tended to have higher tendency towards behaviors such as
    obsessive/compulsive behavior, interpersonal hypersensitivity,
    hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid thoughts.”

    I am not sensitive but I have dealt with many in my research. They tend not to “paranoid”, they tend to have immune systems that have been compromised. They tend to have food allergies, mold sensitivities and chemical sensitivities.

    Moral of the story – no one has a f’ing clue what this wireless and other EMR/EMF emitting stuff is doing to us all. It is a grand human experiment.

    Until industry says it “safe and we will take liability for it”, I’m keeping more than my distance from it – I avoid it.

  • neroden

    MRIs generate huge EMFs. Reputable studies show that they *help treat* schizophrenia.

    The EMF paranoia is not generally well-thought-out. It’s quite likely that certain particular types of EMF cause trouble. It’s quite certain that most types are harmless. It’s absolutely certain that most EMFs are quite low level, and as a result are harmless unless you’re very close to them.

    Most of the studies looking for real consquences looked at huge, high-voltage power lines which generate very large EMFs. It’s also potentially pretty questionable to have your cellphone stuck to your ear, which means it is at a *very* short range to your brain.

    But the wiring in your house is not going to cause any problems, and the people who’ve claimed that they were bothered by it have in some cases actually been tested and been proved to be wrong — because they couldn’t tell whether they were in a house with the electricity on or off. :-P

  • neroden

    The people who claim to be electrosensitive of the “house wiring bothers me” variety have, occasionally, been tested with blind study protocols (where they aren’t told whether they’re being exposed to EMF or not), and every time, the result is — they’re not actually electrosensitive. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but so far, every case has been shown to be untrue.

    Chemical sensitivities are real and extremely common, and we know most of the biochemical mechanisms behind them. There’s probably a confounding factor in that buildings with a lot of electrical stuff often have lots of unidentified chemicals in the air. I have a long list of obscure allergies and have to be very careful about the materials I’m around.

  • MM59

    You should watch some video’s on people who participated in those studies. It is revealing.

    Re: mechanisms/signal strength – look up Dr. Martin Pall, Voltage Gated Calcium Channels, as just one example of what scientists/doctors are finding.

    It is a complicated issue. However, this claim of no biological effects because of strength is just nonsense.

    You can’t turn off a cell tower. Most county codes consider 100 feet a safe distance. Its time for those that agree with that position to move into those homes that surround these towers.

    Remember your cell phone was tested for safety at approx 8 inches from your head. How do you use it?

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  • NRG4All

    Years ago when I was in Engineering school we used the term EMF to stand for ElectroMotive Force. In particular we were interested in the Back EMF. That refers to when an electric motor starts up. For just an instant when the motor is at zero RPM it consumes huge quantities of electricity. Then as the motor starts revolving a Back EMF is generated that opposes the electricity flowing in. This is why we see circuit breakers that are made for circuits with electric motors. It is also why we have “slo blow” fuses. We have had electric motors for well over a century and now we are worried about LEDs?

  • Jill Smith

    How offensive to see comments from people who do no testing, and cite no examples. They’re smarter or more knowledgeable than 190 leading scientists petitioning the UN for greater controls?

    EVERY form of electricity weakens food and all forms of life. No need to believe it. Learning the one-second energy test is a FAR wiser approach. If someone gently, firmly pries your thumb & finger apart as you hold them tightly together, just enough to see how easy or hard it is to part them 1/4″ or 1/2″…. tell your caller to hold on as you hold your cellphone against your chest, and you will see that even 300-lb weightlifters can’t hold their thumb & finger together anymore. Same for pinching the power cord of any operating electrical device. There are no exceptions.
    Try to remember that proof is better than belief, as Dr. David Cohen and crew have always taught us. (That’s why they’re my go-to people on most health matters, they invented a bunch of anti-emf devices). Can’t repeat their wisdom too many times. Proof is better than belief or opinion

  • Brooks Bridges

    Meanwhile we have diesel motor pollution, coal plant pollution, car emission pollution, etc., various kinds of drinking water pollution for which there is very solid science saying they are extremely harmful. When we’ve taken care of these pollutants I’ll worry about sources on which the science is, to say the least, extremely unsettled.

    Oh, and let’s throw in the people dying from hunger the world over. Call it lack of food pollution.

    Or climate change, for which there is robust scientific evidence that it will shortly produce changes to our environment threatening our very civilization and possibly the very survival of the human race.

    Perspective is needed people. Think of humanity as living in a great big boat and the above items are holes letting in water. A logical person would attempt to repair the big holes first.

  • Arthur

    I tested LED’s with all my “standard equipment” and obtained low readings in a broad wavelength range, which is good. CFLs (Compact Fluorescent by comparison had lots of UV).

    LEDs are great in hot and sunny Florida because they give off little heat, so the biggest energy savings is with the AC having to do less work.

    So after spending nearly $1000 on LEDs for the entire home, I decided to go back to Incandescent light bulbs except for exterior lights. Why? Because there could still be rays/particles that my equipment could not measure.

    The best solution would be to test LEDs in labs for at least a decade before unleashing these on the entire population, but there is no sense of ethics when it comes to green energy. The liberal socialists who hate oil and gas and other fossil fuel are anxious to experiment on people and on children, and they have the Obama judges to protect them.

  • Arthur

    As far as EMFs being safe, the evidence is overwhelming that long term exposure to significant EMFs increases health risks, especially conditions that are affected by hormone and protein production in our brains. So, increased risk of Cancer, Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, ALS and even Autism.

    A recent US government study also concluded that tumors can form in many locations in the body, not just the brain, as a result of long term EMF exposure.

    Now do you want to know about all the nice poeple that were sent to intimidate me? The first one was in 2013. Unfortunately they stopped as of January 20, 2017….especially the ones Musk sent. It’s too bad….because now that I’m done getting my message out, I don’t have to be so cautious and mild mannered any longer.

    Here is a trivia question for you: What generates more EMF….a light bulb or an electric motor more powerful than 400 swimming pool pumps stuffed under the kid’s seats in a TESLA with no effective shielding???

  • Arthur


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