In recent years, things we assumed were unassailable have taken some hits and come under fire. Specifically, facts and truth have fallen out of favor in certain circles.
Given humankind’s natural gravitation to conspiracy theories, we sometimes have things peddled to us that are patently false.
One politician claimed a link between wind turbines and cancer despite zero evidence. Similarly, claims of this sort sometimes come up around solar energy, as well.
Both ideas are flat wrong and utterly ridiculous.
Solar Panels Definitely Do NOT Cause Cancer
How is this even a question? While solar panels are not the end-all, be-all solution for the world’s energy supplies and issues, precisely zero of the technology’s issues involve cancer caused by solar panels.
The prevailing reasoning around this claim seems to involve the word “radiation,” as in electro-magnetic field (EMF) and radiofrequency (RF) radiation. And there’s also ultraviolet (UV) light.
First, let’s get this out of the way: those three things can cause cancer. Yes, in high doses, cancer is a possible outcome of extreme exposure.
But to say that this proves solar panels cause cancer is like saying marriage causes children. While children are often born during a marriage, simply saying “I do” doesn’t cause conception. There’s at least one other step needed.
We fear radiation because of nuclear bombs and things like that. Some of us were irreparably scarred in 1983 by a TV movie called “The Day After” about the aftermath of nuclear war. It terrified millions of people and mentioned radiation a lot.
Radiation is simply energy that radiates from a source. If you build a fire in your fireplace, the chemical reaction occurring between the wood, oxygen, and fire generates heat, which then radiates out into your living room. No one thinks that causes cancer, do they?
Radiation comes from our cell phones, radio telescopes, wifi routers, power lines, and all sorts of gadgets and gizmos we use in life. Different types of radiation do different things, and yes, some radiation can cause us physical problems.
EMF radiation occurs when electricity moves through wires and creates a magnetic field. An electric field exists around your wires even when the electrons aren’t moving through them, like when your TV is turned off. The magnetic field gets created when the electrons flow.
These two fields generate EMF radiation, varying in intensity and strength. Your microwave uses EMF to pop your popcorn, an EMF field emanates from your refrigerator, and when the dentist x-rays your teeth, she’s doing it by shooting EMF radiation at your choppers.
Can you get cancer from too many x-rays? Sure. That’s why they put that lead apron on you, and also why we don’t get x-rays every morning as part of our daily wake-up ritual.
The EMF used in x-rays is a higher frequency than those that reheat your dinner in the ‘wave. The lower-frequency EMF radiation does not cause cancer or any other physical ailments.
RF radiation is a type of EMF that occurs at a higher frequency than the EMF coming from your desk lamp. Your radio tunes into RF called “radio waves,” and you will not get cancer from listening to the Morning Zoo Crew.
Ultraviolet light comes from the sun and is of a high enough frequency that we cannot see it. Nonetheless, it is a known cause of tissue damage, such as sunburn, damage to the eye, and skin cancer.
UV rays are why we wear sunscreen and sunglasses, as exposure to UV light in large quantities is harmful to us.
Here’s why we care about these facts: solar panels do not generate ultraviolet light. They get hit with a bunch of it sitting out in the sun all day, but they do not create UV light.
If you laid on a solar panel, you’d get the same amount of UV exposure as you would lying on the ground; only the panel would likely burn your back. But cancer? No.
Why Solar Panels Are Not A Health Hazard
Solar panels often contain cadmium, which is a known carcinogen. They may have silicon dust in them, which, when inhaled, can cause pneumonoultramicroscopicsilico-volcanoconiosis. They usually get built into metal frames.
But standing next to a solar panel with cadmium in it will not give you cancer. Breaking the solar panel open and eating the cadmium would.
Breathing next to a solar panel will not give you an unpronounceable lung-wrecking ailment. Cracking open the panel and sucking up the silicon dust would.
Living near a solar panel will not impale you. Pulling the metal off of it and jamming it into your torso would.
Since nobody is doing those things, it’s rather evident that solar panels do not pose health risks. Sure, if one fell off the roof and onto your head, that would be a problem, but that’s not the same as causing health risks.
What About Solar Panel Manufacturer Workers?
Dangers exist in any manufacturing endeavor, and solar panels are no exception. However, cancer in solar panel manufacturer workers is not one of the risks.
American made solar panels have to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strict rules, as do state and local governments and manufacturing plants themselves, protecting workers so that they don’t get exposed to harmful materials in the manufacturing process.
The bulk of the danger to solar industry workers involves falling off roofs during installation, electrocution, and back injuries from lifting panels incorrectly. None of that has anything to do with cancer.
Solar Panel Certifications
Several certifications exist for solar panels, and while you won’t find many panels with every one of these certifications, you’ll have trouble finding a reputable panel with no certifications. These certifications attest to a panel’s construction, performance, and safety.
International Electrotechnical Commission
One certifying body is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a group that sets quality standards for electronic devices worldwide, among them solar panels.
The applicable IEC certification is known as IEC 61215. Panels meeting this certification have passed tests regarding:
- Climate, meaning they will withstand exposure to elements, hail, and extreme weather conditions;
- Electrical, showing the innards have insulation and seals against moisture; and
- Mechanics, which involves the physical performance of the panel.
IEC 61730 works to assert a solar panel’s electrical safety, including electrical performance and fire safety.
Other IEC certifications include IEC 61701 and IEC 60068-2-68. These certifications result from testing against corrosion occurring due to salt, applicable to panels in use near the ocean, and sand damage for panels in desert areas.
Sand can scratch and otherwise damage just about anything, so a solar panel in a place where sand might blow against them, this certification offers reassurance.
On just about any electrical-related product, you’ll find the familiar “UL” label, which represents Underwriters Laboratories. This safety-mind organization offers testing and safety certification for a vast array of products manufactured worldwide.
UL relies on testing and rigorous science to ensure that products are safe for consumers and not harmful to the environment.
Any solar panel could not receive any certification from IEC or UL if it were a cancer-causing product.
The Bottom Line
Solar panels do not cause cancer when they are used as intended. Eating the components of a solar panel could cause any number of physical disorders, but no one buys solar panels when making dinner plans.
The idea that solar panels could cause cancer is blatantly false and should be dismissed out of hand.
Rather than presenting a cancer risk to those who install them on their homes or businesses, solar panels offer a clean source of energy that greatly reduces one’s carbon footprint and contributes to an energy efficient home.
The technology improves daily as panels get more efficient, and none of those improvements endanger anyone’s health.