Films concerning CFLs


"Giftiges Licht. Die dunkle Seite der Energiesparlampe" A film of Alexandra Pfeil

On August 8, 2012, the Zweites Deutches Fernsehen (ZDF) transmitted the film "Giftiges Licht. Die dunkle Seite der Energiesparlampe" (Toxic light. The dark side of the energy saving lamp.) The video can be followed - try to see it with subtitles - on ZDFzoom.

English version: Toxic Light - The Dark Side of Energy Saving Bulbs


"The thing does not belong in a fitting, but is hazardous waste!" Wolfgang Maes is an expert for environmental analysis and appalled by the results of its energy-saving light bulbs tests.

Actually, the eco-lamps should help to save energy and consequently protect the environment. And our budget, because, according to the manufacturer, these lamps burn eight times as long as a conventional light bulb. From September 2012 [in the European Union], the last incandescent light bulb will disappear from store shelves. So it was decided by the European Commission. It boosted the sales of the energy-saving lamp manufacturer immensely.

But the energy saving lamp, touted as an eco-bulb, is anything but ecologically valuable. "ZDFzoom" author Alexandra Pfeil found out that the saving lamp can lead to serious health problems in our living room. When a falling lamp breaks, highly toxic mercury is released, which enters the brain via the respiration. "Every little bit of mercury makes a bit more stupid," says chemist Gary Zörner and advises decidedly against the introducing of energy saving lamps in our houses.

Even toxic

But even in normal operation, the lamp endangers the health through flickering light and electromagnetic radiation. The supposedly environmentally-friendly saving bulb gives off toxic and even carcinogenic substances.

The European market is flooded with energy-saving light bulbs from China. In factories located there workers were already poisened by mercury. Can it be that people are poisoned at work, producing for European manufacturers a supposedly ecological product? "ZDFzoom" author Alexandra Pfeil investigates the monstrous suspicion and makes a startling discovery. (Source)

The Film BULB FICTION. Direction Christoph Mayr (Austria)

The original webpage is here.

The film can be seen on You Tube.


In 2007 Greenpeace sees destroy 10,000 incandescent light bulbs in front of the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin with a road roller. With CFLs, this action would not have been possible. The mercury contained in 10,000 CFLs is enough to contaminate 50 million liters of drinking water - apart from the acute health hazard for the activists and spectators.

The reason why Greenpeace together with the lamp industry in Brussels made considerable pressure to ban the bulb is one of the questions that are followed in BULB FICTION, the investigative documentary by Christoph Mayr.

From September 2009 on, incandescent lamps of 100W and also all frosted incandescent lamps are banned. From September 2011 on, 60W bulbs disappeared and from September 1, 2012, in the countries of the European Union, no single incandescent lamp will be available. High voltage halogen lamps have a grace period and are banned from automn 2016.

How did we get here?

The industry needs turnover, NGOs must prove their donors that they can push through their desires. The majority of the politicians look where the wind blows, for otherwise rarely an opportunity arises to be celebrated as a climate protector without interfering with the industry or otherwise with a powerful lobby.

Almost all who deal intensely with the subject of light and its effect on people, health professonials, lighting designers, construction biologists (who care about the biological impact of a building) are against the ban on incandescent lamps. Since they belong to any of the big lobbies, their protests are unheeded.

In BULB FICTION they have their say.

Immediate cause of the film

Already in 2007, the cameraman and lighting designer Moritz Gieselmann accidently heard from an employee of the lamp manufactory Osram that incandescent bulbs would be banned, which he holded for a bizarre rumor - who could come up with idea to such old-established and popular product? The simplicity and elegance of the bulb is unsurpassed to this day: A fitting of tin, a glowing tungsten wire, a glass bulb filled with inert gas or vacuum created - that's it. When in 2008 the impending ban on incandescent bulbs appears in the media, Gieselmann begins researching, and what he finds there makes that his skepticism about the compact fluorescent lamp is increasing. The information in the media is incomplete, and thus arises the idea of making a documentary on the subject. The writer and director Christopher Mayr, initially skeptical about a topic supposed to be dry, soon set him alight with enthusiasm. He finds in Thomas Bogner a dedicated producer, and in the fall of 2011, in parallel with the disappearance of the 60W incandescent lamp, BULB FICTION hit theaters.

By Regulation (EC) 244/2009 of the EU, the ban on incandescent bulbs and therefore the necessity of saving became official. Christoph Mayr wants to talk to the EU energy commissioner at the time, Andris Piebalgs. By pointing out not to be in charge of the department of energy, he refuses. Günter Oettinger, his successor also refuses. The reason? He was appointed as commissioner only after the coming into force of the Regulation. The relevant top official of the EU, Andras Toth, is prohibited by its authority to step in front of the camera.

Only Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for the EU Energy Commission can answer the questions by Christoph Mayr. Because she has not worked up sufficiently the topic, she let her accompany by Andras Toth as adviser - filming is not allowed.

Harmful effects on health

That CFLs contain mercury, the EU do know it. The fact that mercury is toxic, too. Not for nothing were banned mercury thermometers. In the fall of 2008 in Austria and Germany, mercury thermometers were exchanged for free.

That mercury in bulbs can be extremely toxic is shown for in the film BULB FICTION with the case of the four-year-old Max from Linden, an idyllic village in Upper Bavaria. One night, a working CFL began to leak. Max inhaled the gaseous mercury the whole night after which he gradually loses all his hair, even eyelashes and eyebrows, followed by tremor episodes and depression. Dr. Mutter aus Konstanz, who has made his name as specialist in mercury related diseases, diagnosed a mercury pollution, which, in combination with other burdens, is responsible for these symptoms.

Gary Zörner from LAFU Institute, which has long dealt with environmental toxins, indicates: "Every tiny bit of mercury makes a little more dull" - because mercury accumulates in the brain and destroys nerve cells, even if no limit is exceeded.

Investigation of mercury in CFLs and health problems in a recycling factory

The limit of mercury in CFLs is a chapter in itself: it exists indeed: 5mg per lamp, but is not controled. Christoph Seidel, spokesman of Megaman, who claims to be Europe's largest manufacturer of bulbs, says that one must trust the manufacturers, and in general they would control each other ...

VITO, the Belgian institute that has evaluated CFLs on behalf of the EU, has investigated the mercury content of a sample of 5 (five) pieces. Even here, no one wants to talk with Christoph Mayr.

For Dr. Georg Steinhauser, radiation physicist at the Technical University of Vienna, is such limited sample size simply ridiculous and not serious. He determined to BULB FICTION the mercury content of a compact fluorescent lamp and criticized at the same time the official measurement method of the EU, which measures only the mercury adhering at the glass, but not the gaseous mercury, which escapes from dismantling the lamp: "It's like when I wanted to determine the amount of helium in a teared balloon on the basis of the helium adhering to the shell."

VITO, which otherwise produced very optimistic results for the proponents of the ban on incandescent bulbs, estimates that 80% of the mercury from spent bulbs comes in the environment. If Europe is once lit with compact fluorescent lamps everywhere, every day at least a million of these little poison containers must be disposed of. Multiply each lamp with 5 mg mercury and you will obtain 146 tons of mercury, which is spread everywhere in Europe.

But one fifth of the burned-out bulbs, which have reached intact the recycling plants, can still do damage. Christoph Mayr was making his film in the "Electrical Waste Recycling Group" in Huddersfield, England. The company was in June 2010 sentenced to a fine of 145,000 pounds because 20 people, including a pregnant woman, were contaminated over a longer period due to the ventilation of the mercury vapor. A former employee of the company says in the film, one year after the events, that he still suffers from poor concentration, memory problems and depression.

Restriction of the life time of lamps

Christoph Mayr does not let up, BULB FICTION leaves no question about saving light bulbs and incandescent lamps unanswered. In Berlin, he speaks with Helmut Höge from TAZ, who has dealt extensively with Phoebus, the light bulbs cartel, founded in the 1920s. Phoebus was the first global cartel. He not only ensured the profit margins and the market share of the participating companies, including Osram, Philips and General Electric, he also was responsible that the life time of incandescent lamps, which at the end of the 19th Century under Thomas Edison was still 1500 hours, was reduced by 1935 at 1000 hours. For member companies, which produced lamps with a too long life time, there was an elaborate system of fines.

In the early 1990s, Dieter Binninger, inventor and industrialist from Berlin, invented a light bulb that, with the same load as the conventional 1000-hour lamp, lasted 150,000 hours. Just days after he had submitted a bid to the Trust (Treuhandanstalt) for an East German lamp factory at the time, he died in 1991 in a plane crash. The cartel researcher Rudolf Mirow wrote in 1992 to Birgit Breuel, the head of the Trust: "It is suspected that this cartel has now shared the market of the new German federal states (Bundesländer) between them ..." In 1993, Mirow died in a car accident in Indonesia.

Light differences between CFLs and incandescent bulbs

BULB FICTION also discusses the biological and medical aspects of light. Between the light from incandescent and fluorescent lamps, there are significant differences. Incandescent bulbs are known as thermal radiators: A tungsten filament is heated until it emits light, analogous to the sun and fire. In the natural light sources, light and heat are inextricably linked, so it is with the incandescent bulb. But when the lighting industry in the 1930s was looking for a technical-physical definition of light, it reduced the term "light" on the visually perceptible fraction of the radiation of the sun. That infrared, the invisible part of this radiation, has an effect on our organism, was not disputed. What side effects can have the absence of infrared light, is still largely unexplored. Professor Richard Funk is Director of the Anatomical Institute at the University of Dresden. In 2009 he published a study in which he puts forward the hypothesis that the blue light components can contribute to the formation of macular degeneration, if this light is not accompanied by infrared light reaching the eye. In experiments, he demonstrates that blue light can damage retinal cells, however, infrared light stimulates cells to repair itself.

The light of fluorescent lamps is missing not only the infrared, they have 3 or 5 energy peaks in the visible range. In between, there is darkness, as the physician, Dr. Alexander Wunsch, who has dealt extensively with the health aspects of light, has demonstrated. The result is a poor color rendition - objects can reflect only the light with which they are illuminated. If certain colors are lacking in the light, surfaces appear in these colors as pale and washed out.

Wolfgang Maes, building biologist from Neuss, tested CFLs on behalf of Ökotest, with startling results: The values of the electromagnetic pollution are up to 15 times higher than allowed by the TCO standard for displays.

Political responsability

In Brussels, Christoph Mayr speaks with Holger Krahmer, a German MEP from Leipzig, who spoke out as the first European politician against the ban of the light bulbs. For him it is democratically politically incomprehensible as it may be possible that the policy decides which products may be used by citizens and which may not. This ban reminds him of the dictatorial planned economy of the GDR.

Max Otte, financial journalist and professor of economics: "This Europe is a Europe of companies that have long since taken over the government!"

Meanwhile, Sigmar Gabriel, German Environment Minister, supposed to be a driving force behind the ban on incandescent bulbs, distributed in the last federal election campaign thousands of compact fluorescent lamps from Osram.

Unswervingly Christoph Mayr pursues all references, all details about our theme with the largest precision. How to find the nearest collection point for electronic waste? Not always as easy as one might imagine. Is here done everything to not let escape the toxic mercury into the environment? Do the mentioned life time on the packaging of CFLs agree with the facts? Is the story of the so-called mercury paradox correct which must prove that mercury-free bulbs are actually responsible for more mercury into the environment than the mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps? What is the Heat Replacement Effect? What mean the CFLs to people in emerging countries?

While Michael Moore in his films is moved from his own emotions to polemical exaggeration, Christoph Mayr remains factual in BULB FICTION, but as a stubborn Tyrolean he gives not up until all the facts are on the table.


At the end of BULB FICTION the makers of Heatball present their action: turning the reasoning around that lamps deliver 95% of the energy as a high heat radiation. They sell bulbs like small heaters that give incidentally some light: "Heatball is also a resistance against the disproportionality of measures to protect our environment. How can you seriously believe that we save the world's climate only by using energy saving light bulbs, while allowing the rain forests to wait in vain for decades for their protection."

The European-German bureaucracy is overcharged by this performance art from engaged citizens. They react through the promulgation of measures, financial penalties and the seizure of the Heatballs.

BULB Fiction is a film for committed citizens who are not satisfied with the restrained rage against the prevailing conditions, but want to be informed to form by themselves a well-founded opinion.


  • Statement of the European Commission on the Bulb Fiction film: we cannot endorse the view that the observed hair loss is due to exposure to mercury contained in certain energy saving lamps.
  • Study from Prof. ir. Wout van Bommel, Gloeilampvervangende lampen en gezondheid, (Incandescent bulbs substituting lamps and health) February 5, 2010.
    • Incandescent bulbs substituting saving lamps (CFLs) and LED lamps have a relative higher component of blue (cool white light) than incandescent lamps (warm white light). Our eye contains sensitive cells which are in touch with our biological clock which on its turn is in touch with the pineal gland which operates our hormonal regulation. The sensitivity of these cells is larger for light with a shorter wavelength (blue light) than for light with a longer wavelength (red light). The question is if the general use of CFLs and LED lamps at night at home may disturb our natural hormonal regulation and have negative effects on our natural body rhythm and our health.
    • In this study, a lower visual dose for the older eye is demonstrated with all lamps. This drop is at least applied to the incandescent bulb.
    • The author concludes that one can switch without inconvenience from incandescent lamps to CFLs with a colour of 2700-3000K and a colour rendering larger than 80. The biological dose (= total no visual biological effect of light) is not too high in comparison with incandescent lamps. Halogen lamps (what is remarkable) and CFLs of 4000K show a higher biological dose . [So these lamps can have a negative effect on our health.]
  • German discussion of the film by Georg Günsberg


Last update January 28, 2013