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Do leds contain toxic material such as arsenic or lead? Answered

I heard something about LED light bulbs containing lead or arsenic. Does this apply to LEDs like the small kind?


Jack A Lopez

Best Answer 3 years ago

Well, the short answer is "yes", or "often yes".

More specifically, the LED junction itself often, but not always, includes a semiconductor called gallium arsenide (GaAs) which obviously contains arsenic.


However in any size LED, the semiconductor part is very small. Moreover, it is entombed in plastic, so it is going to be very difficult for the arsenic atoms to escape, for to poison any people, or plants.

Regarding lead, Pb, there is often lead in the solder alloy used to connect the LED to the circuit drives it. For example if you build circuits yourself, with solder and a soldering iron, the solder you're using is likely Sn60Pb40, which is an alloy of 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead, by weight. I think that alloy is the most commonly solder, for soldering electrical things.


Anyway, if you're worried about poisoning yourself by working with a soldering iron, don't be, because it doesn't seem to poison people that way.

If you're worried about poisoning the environment with your broken electronic junk, which contains circuit boards, with solder on them, then maybe you should give some thought to how you dispose of these things.

For example, probably the absolute worst thing you could do with an old computer is toss it into a nearby river, so the solder is continuously surrounded by water, and depending on pH, leaching into the water slowly or quickly.

It would be be better if you dropped it off with a recycler who specifically accepts this kind of waste, called "e-waste".

It would be better still if you could donate it to a local makerspace, or hackerspace, because then some of its parts might get re-used.

Another possibility is you could just never throw away broken electronics, maybe with the intention of using the parts yourself, or making it into an art project, or whatever. Although with that approach it is just a matter of time before your house fills up with broken electronic junk.

For more on this topic, see:



steveastroukJack A Lopez

Answer 3 years ago

By the same token, Salt contains highly inflammable Sodium and the toxic gas chlorine. The important thing is how these elements are bonded together.


Answer 3 years ago


And we cannot live without a little salt which are both poison to my body.


1 year ago

Jack, those are some very good thoughts and I appreciate your comments. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts.

One, anyone disappointed in hearing about the toxins in LEDs should consider the bigger picture. Arsenic, lead, etc. in LEDs may not be ideal, but when you consider they use half the power to produce the same amount of light, and that generation of that power is likely much more toxic (burning coal, gas, mining for those, nuclear waste, etc.), you will be coming out way ahead by reducing the need for energy. Even solar panels contain arsenic for doping the cells. Wind turbines require mining for and producing the steel. I think LEDs are a blessing because they are such an improvement in reducing our toxic waste. They even last longer, now, than other bulbs, reducing the need for mining, manufacture, transportation of product, etc.

Two, it is my understanding that in most cases the solder that used to contain lead has now been replaced with less toxic alloys. I think we will continue to see more of this change over.




3 years ago

Compact florescent bulbs contain far more in the way of toxic stuff and since all it needs to be released is the glass being broken an LED light is much better in comparison.