According to this CBC Be Green report:

  • 'CFLs [Compact Fluorescent Lamps] produce what is called "dirty electricity".'
  • In an environment with dirty electricity, diabetics blood sugar will climb. It will drop again in a clean electricity environment.
  • In an environment with dirty electricity, multiple sclerosis patients will have worse neurological symptoms.
  • A school found that after cleaning their electricity, students with asthma stopped using their inhalers at school.
  • CFLs increase the EMF field (which apparently measures dirty electricity levels.)
  • Graham-Stetzer Filters will clean the dirty electricity on your circuit.

They interviewed experts to support these claims, although the credentials of the experts were not made clear.

Are any of these claims true?

  • 8
    Argh. Let me guess--snake oil is also an effective remedy if you can't get your hand on Graham-Stetzer filters?
    – Rex Kerr
    Nov 3, 2011 at 0:27
  • 1
    @Rex, no, I am pretty sure you need to stick with one of the two types of products they plugged. :-)
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 3, 2011 at 0:48
  • 13
    If your electricity is dirty, you need to wash the ends of the wires in a bathtub
    – user5341
    Nov 3, 2011 at 4:17
  • 3
    @DVK - It is actually a serious problem for Power Generators. I worked at a nuclear plant in Clinton IL that spent nearly 2 years to implement a distribution system that would regulate the output levels so that it did not pollute the grid with dirty power.
    – Chad
    Nov 3, 2011 at 14:06
  • 1
    This is a comment and not an answer because I've not researched it, but reading the question set my BS sense tingling like crazy. Electricity is just a flow of electrons in a conducting medium, I don't see how it could be "dirty". It could be "noisy" but that's not the same thing by a long shot.
    – GordonM
    Mar 4, 2015 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


An interesting claim which starts with a plausible idea: that CFLs produce transient high-frequency noise in your electrical system. This answer is partial and incomplete but I though some observations were worth reporting in the hope that further investigation by me or others can flesh out the detail.

The website of the firm selling the filters that supposedly fix the problem is the primary place to look for links and references it is here. I'm suspicious already as someone is trying to sell something. The key academic references converge on a single academic (Magda Havas) who has a variety of publications on related topics (but who disavows any interest in their commercial success despite having an apparently close relationship with their inventors as one paper states, for example):

Conflict of Interest Please note that the author has no vested interest, financial or otherwise, in the commercial devices mentioned in this article.

Acknowledgments The author thanks the people who participated in this study; Dave Stetzer and Martin Graham for information about power quality; and reviewers for their critical comments and suggestions.

NB Stetzler and Graham are the designers of the filter sold on the dirty electricity website.

Magda Havas studies are superficially plausible and seem, at least some of the time, to observe proper experimental procedure (though details are often a little light). But the diabetes claim is based on this study Dirty Electricity Elevates Blood Sugar Among Electrically Sensitive Diabetics and May Explain Brittle Diabetes This paper claims:

In an electromagnetically clean environment, Type 1 diabetics require less insulin and Type 2 diabetics have lower levels of plasma glucose.

which appears a clear-cut piece of evidence. But the claim is based on precisely four subjects which casts some doubt on the statistical validity. In fact I'd go as far as saying that to publish a study with this little evidence is a major sign that you don't want to (or can't) produce real evidence.

I'm making a superficial judgement about the body of work without (yet) having time to examine or validate it all, but I'd say this is poor quality science based on the work of a very small number of researchers who don't adopt stringent statistical standards.

There is no plausible mechanism for the effects observed and the observations are not the result of rigorous trials .These claims demand high quality repeatable evidence and that is not what you find on tracing the references here. In fact the site is a cornucopia of references to other emf sensitivity theories many of which have already been dealt with on skeptics.se e.g. here: Are WiFi waves harmful?

So I'm saying the answer is no, CFL's don't harm you via "dirty electricity" unless someone can point me to some serious research that says they do.

  • 9
    Wow. I tried reading the diabetes paper but couldn't get through it. How did it pass review? Sample of 4. No selection criteria. Poor controlling for other factors. Not blind or randomized. Wild conclusion (another type of diabetes)
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 3, 2011 at 4:40
  • 2
    The problem is obviously that we do not have enough diabetics in the US to perform an accurate study... How can you blame them for having to few sick people to test? @Oddthinking - Reviews? We dont need not stinking reviews.
    – Chad
    Nov 3, 2011 at 14:09
  • 1
    Did anyone find any technical descriptions of how the "filters" work or what the meters for "dirty electricity" actually measure? I looked for them but might have missed links that were not obvious.
    – matt_black
    Nov 3, 2011 at 16:18
  • 1
    @Oddthinking There are published, peer-reviewed mouse studies with a sample size of 2. Oh yeah. And not in bogus journals, this is bona fide research. Jan 3, 2012 at 10:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .