Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dispose of squiggly bulbs properly

…Compact fluorescent light bulbs—that’s it…Those things that look like piggy tails.

…Supposed to be the diety’s gift to cheaper electric bills. If every home in America replaced just one regular bulb with one of these, it would be enough to light 3 million homes and prevent gas emissions equal to 800,000 cars.

…But of course, there is a catch.

…They contain a small amount of the neurotoxin mercury, enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen, the EPA says (weird analogy, what?).

…That’s the stuff that ruins fetus brains and affects babies and toddlers (and is probably not aces for grownups, either).

…Handle these carefully—they are made of glass. Screw holding on the bottom.

…If you break one of these bulbs, the EPA says to quick open the windows.

….Then scoop up the mercury using paper or cardboard. The glass and mercury powder then should be put in a glass jar of plastic bag.

…Go to www.epa.gov.mercury.spills.index.htm for instructions for cleanup on all kinds of surfaces.

…Some states say not to put these in the trash, even unbroken. Others say double plastic bags. Recycling centers just for these are springing up.

…So what do you think? Did someone do the lesser evil on this one?


Johnny 5 said...

As someone who sells light bulbs for a living, I am less enthusiastic than most about compact fluorescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that the ones currently available contain significant amounts of mercury. If one of these bulbs should break inside of a person’s home, it could cause a challenging disposal situation. It is my belief that the technology should progress to a point at which the mercury levels are low or nonexistent before people changeover their entire homes. Another consideration is that as these bulbs burn out, they will most likely be thrown away as though they are normal rubbish and landfills will have incredibly high levels of mercury in their soil as a result.

Star Lawrence said...

Yeah--I am sort of dubious, too. My mother lives in assisted care and was pointing up at her new lightbulbs and I was thinking, oh nifty.

Krissy said...

Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a “significant amounts of mercury” considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be “nonexistent” since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, “a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output”.