The Dangers of Those Energy-Saving Light Bulbs

     It’s listed as the top thing you can do by Al Gore’s Web site on climate change to reduce your carbon impact at home – replacing a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL).


     But Gore doesn’t warn you about what could happen if you improperly dispose of them or even accidentally break one. The Washington Post’s Eco Wise columnist Eviana Hartman reminded readers, “they contain a small amount of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.”


     “If you toss the bulbs in the trash, they're likely to break, potentially exposing workers to mercury or releasing it into groundwater and soil from landfills,” Hartman wrote in the October 7 Washington Post.


     Hartman reported each CFL contains 5 mg of mercury. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider what happened to Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine when a CFL broke in her daughter’s bedroom.


     “One broke,” Joseph Farah wrote in an April 16 WorldNetDaily story. “A month later, her daughter's bedroom remains sealed off with plastic like the site of a hazardous materials accident, while Bridges works on a way to pay off a $2,000 estimate by a company specializing in environmentally sound cleanups of the mercury inside the bulb.”


     Hartman encouraged readers to recycle their dead CFLs or call for a “hazardous waste pickup.” She also gave tips for cleaning up CFLs if they break. However, the April 2 Waste News, a trade publication that focuses on issues pertaining to waste products and the environment, reported there has been little discussion about the environmental hazards because of the hype surrounding global warming hysteria:


“But warning consumers that they have to dispose of compact fluorescents with care may not be in the best interest of those trying to sell them, she [Ann Moore, recycling coordinator for Burlington County, NJ] said. Along with the additional expense and performance concerns, having to deal with disposing of the bulbs could give consumers another excuse not to buy them, she said.


‘You probably don’t want to do that because you’d hate to wreck the momentum,’ Moore said. ‘And that could kill the movement.’”


      Another story about the dangers of CFLs and the lack of warning provided by the manufacturers was reported in the April 14 issue of The (Nashville) Tennessean.


     “Everybody is throwing all this mercury into the garbage. No one knows this. This should be in bold print on the packaging,” Elizabeth Doermann said to The Tennessean after she broke a CFL and vacuumed it up, spreading the mercury contaminants throughout her home.

     “She held a new package of the lights from which she had learned about the mercury, only after putting on glasses to read the little print. This was after the vacuuming incident,” Anne Paine of The Tennessean wrote. “A square, dwarfed by the bar code, contained the phrases ‘Mercury’ and ‘Manage in accordance with Disposal Laws,’ a phone number and a Web address. It did not say that used bulbs should be treated as household hazardous waste.”