Finally! This is the third time in the last two months I've heard a news story regarding the dangers and health risks of compact fluorescent light bulbs. It's a little disappointing that they don't talk about the health risks of actually being exposed to ultraviolet rays for long periods of time. I guess I'll have to seriously discuss it here in the future. Here are the highlights from the article.
- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) are coiled bulbs that generate light by heating gases in a glass tube. Considered to use 50% or more less energy and last longer than incandescent traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Still many concerns regarding the amount of mercury contained in all CFLs.
- Mercury is a neurotoxin which can cause kidney and brain damage. It's only 5 mg, an amount tiny enough to barely cover the tip of a pen. However, it is still enough to possibly contaminate 6,000 gallons of water beyond drinking safety. Even low mercury CFLs can potentially contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels.
- Eventually, any bulbs (even CFLs) break or burn out, and most consumers simply throw them out in the trash because they don't know what else to do about it. A consumer called several government agencies regarding disposing of a broken CFL, and they didn't know what to tell her. The poison control operator didn't even know. Eventually, she was sent to a special cleanup firm. $2,000 to safely clean up a broken light bulb? Yowza.
- Why is it so important to clean up a broken fluorescent light bulb the safe way? Throwing it in the garbage sends it to the landfill, where it's likely to be broken (if it's not already) by weight, then the mercury can get into the soil, and then it's vapors can spread through the air, exposing workers to toxic levels.