By Tracy M
This is posted at my personal site, but MMW gets much more traffic, and I though this was important enough to pass on…
Like many mama’s, I have been making the switch to Compact Fluorescent light bulbs. While I have not been sold on them actually lasting as long as the packages claim, and I’m not a particular fan of the sometimes bluish light they cast, I have made the move for the most part anyway.
My husband was doing a little poking around for information and it seems there are some issues with mercury and CF’s. Now, regular incandescent bulbs contribute to mercury in the environment through the burning of coal resources, however when an incandescent bulb breaks, you simply have a glassy mess to clean up.
Not so with a CF. All CF bulbs actaully contain mercury inside the tube coil, and upon breakage, toxic mercury gas is released into your home. There are warnings on the packages, and according to the EPA website, upon breakage, you should vacate the room, ventilate, use rubber gloves and double stick tape to clean up the shards, double bag the refuse, and never ever use a vacuum to clean up the glass, as your vacuum with further disperse the gas around your home and your vacuum will be contaminated. According to one Canadian website, you really should have a professional service come and decontaminate the mercury residue. This is from ONE bulb breaking.
As with most issues, there are more than two sides. Environmentalists claim the bennefits of CF’s far outweigh the cost, and CF’s can be recycled at local recycling centers. I checked with our local center, (in the Pacific Northwest, where environmental issues are high profile) and they only accept spent CF’s twice a year. You must then hold onto your mercury-laden bulbs for up to six months, waitiing for the ability to recylce them, and pray they don’t break.
The problem is, most folks don’t even know this much…
Thus, burnt-out bulbs by the millions are being tossed and they are breaking not only in our homes, but in landfills accross the country. This fact contrubutes to tons of mercury being released, far more than woud be by the use of incandescent bulbs.
Mercury is linked to birth defects, specifially spinal cord deformities, causes damaged to the central nervous system and is linked to various other heath issues.
As for me, I think I will still use them, but with far greater caution, and only in places I can be sure my kids won’t knock them over- in our house, it’s not a question of if they will break, but when.
That’s my soapbox for today.
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