Thursday, June 19, 2008

CFL - New Sustainable Light Source or Dangerous Environmental Hazard?


The CFL (compact fluorescent light bulb) has become something of an icon or symbol for the change to a greener more sustainable way of being. It represents a simple way to make a difference in our current climate crisis. From corporate giveaways to grass-roots fundraising events, the CFL has become a gesture towards the growing awareness that we need to be more conscious of how we use energy. It's many benefits are touted and shouted, but we don't as often hear about the serious problems associated with the MERCURY inside them!

Representative Poe went on a serious rant about a law that would require a switch to CFLs by 2014. I'm not sure how I feel about legislation dictating product choices. I suspect it is more of a congressional reaction to the outcry for a greener US - pandering to the widespread concern about climate change. Perhaps it is well-meaning, but I really don't know enough about the Bill to pass judgment. See what the congressman Poe says about CFLs and the Bill that would outlaw incandescent bulbs.

Okay. Here's what I found out:
  • the amount of mercury is VERY tiny

  • some manufacturers use less than others - Turolight's Genesis Fusion line seems to have the lowest

  • it isn't that difficult to recycle CFLs. almost all local recycling depots will take them or instruct you how to deal with them - if you don't leave your lights on excessively, these things last a long time and this shouldn't be a huge hassle.

  • BUT, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T BREAK THESE SUCKERS!

  • actually, don't panic. the instructions seem extensive, but the risks are supposed to be minimal. just keep calm and follow these instructions about cleaning up after a CFL break in your home.

  • we've been using fluorescent lights in offices and commercial facilities since the 1930s!

has anyone every broken one of these things? please let me know about your experience with it.

:) GD Meg

4 comments:

feistyMNgirl said...

thanks for posting on both sides of the issue. i don't like when people use the tiny amount of mercury/reycling arguement as an excuse to keep using only regular lightbulbs.

i use CFLs wherever they are appropriate in my home- but a couple of my fancy lamps have regular bulbs because the CFLs won't fit. i don't even notice the difference. i wish whoever sold them was required to recycle them, because it would be nice to return one to recycle when you go to purchase more....

Kim said...

We have a CFL in our home and are slowly replacing the old incadescent bulbs with CFLs. Good to know the amount of mercury is tiny. I'm like you: extremely sceptical about legislation dictating product choices. A memory from high school: someone brought in a mercury thermometer and broke it open. The mercury got passed form hand to hand and everyone thought it was soooo cool! I can't remember if I handled the mercury, but I probably did.

juliel85 said...

My family has completely switched over to CFLs, and although I dislike their appearance and the light they give off, I recognize their benefits so I am ok with it. However...yesterday, I broke one of these things for the first time. "Break" is not even the right word...it exploded; powder, vapor, and tiny shards everywhere. I followed the directions for cleanup to a fault, but seeing how that thing shattered, I am not at all convinced I got everything. I'm also concerned with the whole recycling concept...most people I know don't dispose of batteries correctly, so what makes us think we'll dispose of these bulbs the right way? Mercury is highly toxic, and I think we should be very cautious about embracing CFLs and leave no other options.

Meg & Jen said...

Juliel85,
I'm in agreement we should be cautious. If I had an exploding CFL, I'd be nuts about what was left behind, no matter how well I cleaned it!

There was a story in yesterday's NY Times about a new lightbulb that I believe is non-toxic, but has the benefits of a CFL. I'll research it a bit and get back on this.