Washington: Light-emitting diodes (LeDs) marketed as environment-friendly and safe actually contain lead, arsenic and a dozen other hazardous substances, research shows.
"LeDs are touted as the next generation of lighting...We have to be vigilant about the toxicity hazards of those marketed as replacements," said Oladele Ogunseitan, professor of population health at the University of California-Irvine who led the study.
He and his colleagues found that low-intensity red lights contained up to eight times the quantity of lead allowed under California law, but in general, high-intensity, brighter bulbs had more contaminants than lower ones, the journal Environmental Science and Technology reports.
"We find the low-intensity red LeDs exhibit significant cancer and non-cancer potentials due to the high content of arsenic and lead," the team wrote, referring to the holiday lights, according to a California-Irvine release.
Lead, arsenic and many additional metals discovered in the bulbs or their related parts have been linked in hundreds of studies to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses.
The copper used in some LeDs also poses an ecological threat to fish, rivers and lakes. Ogunseitan said fumes from a broken LeD would not automatically cause cancer, but could be a tipping point on top of chronic exposure to another carcinogen.
And - noting that lead tastes sweet - he warned that small children could be harmed if they mistake the bright lights for candy.