Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mercury in CFL bulbs

Posted by Mandy at 1:09 PM

Anyone that is the least bit environmentally conscious, or financially looking for savings, has invested in the new CFL bulbs. (compact florescent lighting) Here's what one brand says about CFL bulbs:

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

Earning the Government's ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs:
-ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
-Save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime.
-Produce about 75 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
-Are available in different
sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture, for indoors and outdoors.

Well, that sounds mighty fine if you ask me! These are the reasons we have almost only CFL bulbs in our home. Can I tell you that the fact that it's been probably over a year since we had to change a light bulb is reason enough to use these? So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across an article on mercury dangers from CFL bulbs. "what?!" I had to do some research and share what I found. Here's the gist of it from :

-CFLs contain mercury, a dangerous substance: True.

-While mercury stays safely contained in intact CFLs, it escapes from broken CFLs into the immediate surroundings: True.

-The amount of mercury contained in one CFL bulb poses a grave danger to a home's inhabitants: False.

-But folks do need to handle the breakage of a CFL bulb with a great deal of care and follow certain procedures in removing the broken bulb and its contents from the home: True.

-An environmental clean-up crew needs be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb: False.

...they also contain mercury, a fact that causes no small amount of concern in light of how dangerous that substance is. Yet the amount housed in each bulb is very small, about 5 milligrams, which is about the size of the period at the end of a sentence. And, provided the bulbs aren't broken open, none of that leaches into the home. Like batteries, used CFLs need to be disposed at a toxic waste depot rather than tossed out with the ordinary household trash. Because mercury is cumulative, this poisonous element would add up if all the spent bulbs went into a landfill. Instead, the mercury in dead bulbs is reclaimed at such depots and recycled. As to the potential for harm posed by mercury escaping from broken bulbs, says the King County Hazardous Waste Program: "Crushing and breaking fluorescent lamps release mercury vapor and mercury-containing phosphor powder. These can be difficult to contain." Yet the recommended clean-up process does not involve calling in a HazMat team. Says the EPA...

Long story short, CFL bulbs are still the best choice environmentally speaking, as long as you continue to do the environment some good and recycle them or take them to be properly disposed of once they go dark. Whew! I can continue to be a lazy bum and not have to spend my days changing and re-changing light bulbs!


Shelley on Sunday, 06 April, 2008 said...

to put a different spin on it, I for one hope very much that these do NOT catch on in the least.

My mom cannot be around flourescent lighting of any kind. It gives her seizures, and makes her eyes swell shut for days. It triggers massive headaches, and makes her violently ill. Because of this, she cannot go to any stores, (no walmart, except Pine Bluff on very sunny days because they have sky lights and if it is bright they do not use their real lights), pretty much no restaurants, and when she goes to the dr, she must sit in the exam room in the dark, until the dr enters. She could not be at the hospital when my kids were born. When my dad endured cancer treatments and surgery, she sat in the dark in his room.
It is a HUGE inconveniece, and leaves her being a shut in most of the time, like a hermit that can't go out.
If the places that she CAN actually go to start using these, she will never get to do anything.
As it is now, she can eat at Topps, and she can eat at the little room at Western Sizzlin in the corner by where you order, which is often reserved. There are no stores locally that she can use.
She can't even sit in a parked car outside USA Drug in Warren while my dad goes in for her, because the light coming through the windows makes her ill.
When she arrives at church, she turns out the flouro lights, and they use the inset ones. (This makes attending preaching all she can do, no Sunday school. Also means no enjoying meals in the fellowship hall)

So, no way will I ever buy these!! She is stuck at home enough!

Mandy on Sunday, 06 April, 2008 said...

Shelley, I've never heard of someone being affected by FL like that.. does she have a named condition that causes this? That is awful!

K.T. is Mommatude on Sunday, 06 April, 2008 said...

We almost completely use these,but that is horrible for Shelleys mom,I cannot imagine-thats just awful!!!!

Mandy on Sunday, 06 April, 2008 said...

Shelley, I accidentally bought a CFL labeled "natural light" and when we turned the light on in the living room it looked like someone had opened the front door. lol It truly looked like natural outdoor lighting! Would that be something that your mother could be near? Is it the way the light reflects off of her eyes (dimness or it or something?) or is it something with florescent bulbs themselves? It's got me curious now.. I can't stop pondering what on earth would cause that for her!

Shelley on Monday, 07 April, 2008 said...

according to her nuerologist, her brain can't break down pulsating light. (I have some issues with it myself, and also have some headache problems, so I hope I don't end up this way too :( The dr's call hers brain seizures)

Because of it, she also can't look at the computer screen either. (Cause if you pay attention, you can see the light being kind of "jumpy" at times? Well, it makes her sick really fast)

It's definitely an odd problem, and it limits her life daily. She is a very positive person and doesn't complain about it, but at times, it really makes her miserable. I mean, she can't shop in stores, my dad buys the groceries, she hasn't been in walmart in YEARS! She can't shop online, she can't go out to eat, it sucks.
She can put a patch over it, and wear her glasses (which are black as night) and handle being in Lowe's in Pine Bluff for short periods, because of the type bulbs they have. Just take a second to look at the lighting everywhere you go, and you will see what I mean. They are everywhere.

Amanda & Justin Dreyer on Thursday, 10 April, 2008 said...

Well Justin has broken so many of ours during our remodeling, we will probably both die of mercury poisoning! Ahh!

Brittany on Thursday, 17 April, 2008 said...

Shelley, that's horrible! I hate that your mom has to go through that!

Mandy, I tagged you! Go check out my blog to see what I mean!

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