Thursday, December 27, 2007

When God said “Let there be light," he didn’t mean Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Congress dictated that the light bulbs we now use will one day be a thing of the past; like the horse buggy, the ice box, home delivered milk and the nickel cigar. However, the difference is these were replaced with substitutes that were better and didn’t require the hazardous waste disposal unit to take them away when they broke down.

With the enactment of the ‘Energy Independence and Security Act,' Congress bowed to the man-made global warming industry and required Americans to replace the dependable incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (‘CFLs’ for short); those weird looking spiral ‘light’ bulbs’ that often don’t fit well in your lamps and which put out less illumination, sometimes with a colorful hue not the white light of their ancestors. [The phase-out of incandescent light is to begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and end in 2014 with the 40-watt.]

Another major difference is that there is no problem disposing of incandescent light bulbs when they burn out and their life is over. You can throw them in the trash can and they won't hurt you or the garbage collector. They won't leech deadly compounds into the air or water. They won't kill people working in the landfills like CFLs may.

The same cannot be said about the mercury-containing CFLs. Even small amounts of highly toxic mercury in CFLs pose problems for consumers when they break or eventually burn out. Mercury is probably best-known for its effects on the nervous system. It can also damage the kidneys and liver, and in sufficient quantities can cause death. When sufficient mercury accumulates in a landfill, it can be emitted into the air in the form of vaporous methyl-mercury, and make its way into the water table. From there it can easily get into the food chain.

The potential hazard created by the introduction of billions of CFLs replacing incandescent bulbs with as yet undeveloped safe disposal practices and few safe disposal sites, and with a public unaware of the risks involved, is enormous. CFLs contain disposal warnings on the packaging but with limited recycling prospects and the problems experienced by users unfortunate enough to break one - sure to be repeated millions of times - the question is: Are environmentalists and industry putting the cart before the horse by marketing the new technology before the hazards in their use and disposal are worked out? Recycling experts say solutions to these problems are at least five to ten years away, and that’s just a guess.

The Environmental Protection Agency is highly recommending the switch to CFLs. While the EPA is on the CFL bandwagon as a means of reducing carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, which it believes contributes to global warming, it also quietly offers advice on cleanup of broken bulbs that might give consumers pause to consider dumping those incandescent light bulbs any time soon.

When a CFL breaks, the EPA cautions consumers to open a window and leave the room immediately for at least 15 minutes because of the mercury threat. The agency suggests removing all materials by scooping fragments and powder using cardboard or stiff paper. Sticky tape is suggested as a way to get smaller particles. The EPA says vacuum cleaners and bare hands should never be used in such cleanups. After final cleanup with a damp paper towel, the agency warns consumers to place all materials in a plastic bag.

"Seal and dispose of properly," says the EPA. "Wash hands."

Doesn’t that just make you want to run out and replace all your light bulbs with CFLs?

By the way, when laws banning incandescent bulbs take effect, mandatory fines on consumers and businesses that dispose of the new CFLs improperly kick in; a ‘catch 22’ since there is no easy way to dispose of CFLs and won’t be for a long time after they are required. LampRecycle.org offers a good sampling of the new regulations.


Joseph Farah at WorldNet.com has written -

“If government has the power to ban something incredibly benign and useful as the incandescent light bulb, what doesn't government have the power to do? No one has ever been killed by an incandescent light bulb. The billions of them that have been used around the world have done nothing they weren't intended to do. They produced light, efficiently and economically. But they have been legislated away - without so much as a single public opinion poll to determine what Americans think about the idea. And they will be replaced, by the way, by a hazardous alternative - one that will almost assuredly cost lives and hurt the environment.”

Who could disagree with him?

If all this is not enough to raise concerns, consider this as consumers discover other downsides of CFLs besides convenience and safety issues:

"Most do not work with dimmer switches

They are available in only a few sizes

Some emit a bluish light

Some people say they get headaches while working or reading under them

They cannot be used in recessed lighting enclosures or enclosed globes"

Fires are also seen as a possibility. When CFLs burn out, they often create some smoke which, to say the least, is alarming. This is a result of the plastic on the bulb's ballast melting and turning black. “CFL manufacturers dismiss safety concerns.”

A women’s experience recently reported in a Maine newspaper may give you even more cause for concern.

“When the bulb she was installing in a ceiling fixture of her 7-year-old daughter's bedroom crashed to the floor and broke into the shag carpet, she wasn't sure what to do. Knowing about the danger of mercury, she called Home Depot, the retail outlet that sold her the bulbs.

According to the Ellison American, the store warned her not to vacuum the carpet and directed her to call the poison control hotline in Prospect, Maine. Poison control staffers suggested she call the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The latter sent over a specialist to test the air in her house for mercury levels. While the rest of the house was clear, the area of the accident was contaminated above the level considered safe. The specialist warned the women not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself – recommending a local environmental cleanup firm.

That company estimated the cleanup cost, conservatively, at $2,000. And, no, her homeowners insurance won't cover the damage.

Since she could not afford the cleanup, she has been forced to seal off her daughter's bedroom with plastic to avoid any dust blowing around. Not even the family pets are permitted in to the bedroom. Her daughter is forced to sleep downstairs in an overcrowded household.”


Believe it or not, the CFL craze did not start in Europe, it started in Fidel Castro's Cuba. His action in banning the incandescent bulb was followed up quickly by Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Only then did the trend continue to the industrialized western nations.

Doesn’t it make you feel good to know our Congress is following the lead of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez?

1 comment:

admin said...

Thank you for your well thought out article!

I am highly concerned with this provision of HR 6 because I am one of the people who am highly sensitive to fluorescent lighting. The medical terms for this is "Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome" as coined by Helen Irlen at the the Irlen Institute (http://www.irlen.com), or photophobia as it is known to optomitrists. I am so sensitive to flourescent lighting that I can not work in a normal office and have had a problem getting my disability compensated for years even thought I have it well documented.

This act is going to make it even harder for me to get a work place to agree to the modifications I need because it will be AGAINST THE LAW! I am so concerned that I just started a website to try to bring together everyone with concerns about this provision in hopes that we can get a medical exception to the enforcement of the ban.

http://www.lightbulbchoice.com