CFL bulbs

While most governments around the world are suggesting that homeowners replace their old lightbulbs with new, energy efficient CFL lighbulbs, they’ve forgotten to mention one important thing: by doing so, you’re bringing toxic chemicals into every room of your home. CFL bulbs, or Compact Fluorescent bulbs, are in fact energy efficient, and could save millions of dollars in national energy costs, they also contain mercury, which everyone knows is a dangerous substance. Keep reading to find out exactly what hazard these lights pose to your health when they’re installed in your home, and once they’re tossed away.

While most governments around the world are suggesting that homeowners replace their old incandescent lightbulbs with new, energy efficient CFL lighbulbs, they’ve forgotten to mention one important thing: by doing so, you’re bringing toxic chemicals into every room of your home. Although CFL bulbs, or Compact Fluorescent bulbs, are energy efficient, and could save millions of dollars in national energy costs, they also contain mercury, which everyone knows is a dangerous substance. Keep reading to find out exactly what hazard these lights pose to your health when they’re installed in your home, and once they’re tossed away.

First of all, if your CFL bulbs don’t break you’re not at risk of exposing yourself to mercury. And even if it does break, it doesn’t pose a serious danger to your health. However, if a bulb breaks, it does leak mercury into its immediate surroundings. If you have a CFL bulb break in your home, you need to take very careful steps to ensure it’s disposed of properly. And even if it doesn’t break, you shouldn’t just throw the bulb away – right now the EPA is working with CFL manufacturers to make large scale light bulb manufacturing facilities.

So what exactly is so dangerous about mercury in some light bulbs? When the bulbs aren’t disposed of properly (which most aren’t), the bulbs end up breaking on their way to the landfills, which results in the mercury entering our soil, or running off into the water supply. Once in the water supply, it enters the bodies of fish, which, if eaten by humans, means you are ingesting mercury which doesn’t leave your body very easily – it doesn’t get degraded by bacteria.

The worst effects of mercury poisoning in humans are damage to the central nervous system, damage to the reproductive system, and impaired development in children. Mind you, this is only found in bodies with very high mercury content (ie. eating a lot of fish), but the hazard is still out there, and is only increased every time a CFL bulb gets tossed away.

So why did the government decide to put a mandate on installing these bulbs, knowing they contain toxic materials? At the time, the energy crisis seemed like a looming threat, and the optimism about how many CFL bulbs would be recycled must have disarmed any health concerns that arose.

Looking at the short term effects of the switch to CFLs, we may not see any real harm done. But on a longer timeline, with an increasing number of the light bulbs being improperly disposed, we are almost guaranteed to see a rising level of mercury in our soil and water. Mercury poisoning has already become a hot topic in recent years, and I fear the more mercury we expose to our homes, and throw away carelessly, the worse it’s going to get.

Personally, I think in years, or perhaps decades, the switch to CFLs will be looked upon with embarrassment. When everyone realizes the long term effects of mercury are equally as hazardous to our health as greenhouse gases are (if not more), we are going to have yet another serious problem on our hands.

In the mean time, make sure to keep your light bulbs in a safe place. If they happen to break on you, it’s not a big deal – just make sure to follow the EPA’s clean up guide. And most importantly, always be sure to dispose of your CFL light bulbs in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the inputs..

    In-spite of being electronics Er and into LED signs business, I am still Using 25watt, 4Nos CFLs in my office room. #Shame.. But yes, I do have installed self made LED lamps 24watt, 2Nos in my bedroom; since more then 2years. #Good..

    I also work 5+hours on my desktop which 26″ LCD monitor. May be because of those CFLs and LCD, recently I have trouble of eye-burning, I have decided to replace both CFLs and LCD monitor by LED type.

    Have a Great Time, Always..

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