Thursday, June 28, 2007

Compact fluorescent light bulbs contaminate the environment with 30,000 pounds of mercury each year

by Mike Adams, June 20, 2007 .

A compact fluorescent light is a type of energy-saving bulb that fits into a standard light bulb socket or plugs into a small lighting fixture, and right now, compact fluorescents seem to be gaining in popularity. But did you know they can also be toxic to your home and the environment?

Fluorescent lights are filled with a gas containing low-pressure mercury vapor and argon. Fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs of an equivalent brightness, and the efficiency of fluorescent lighting owes much to low-pressure mercury photon discharges. But fluorescents don't produce a steady light, and they burn out more quickly when cycled frequently; they also contain items such as fluorine, neon, and lead powder as well as mercury.

Measuring the environmental impact of mercury use in a particular product is more complicated than you might think. Mercury is an essential element in millions of fluorescent lamps throughout the world, and as those lamps are thrown into landfill, the mercury can escape and contribute to air and water pollution. (It can easily leach into groundwater supplies.)

Mercury (also called 'quicksilver') is a known neurotoxin, and elevated blood mercury levels may lead to retardation and deformities in children. In America, 1 in 6 children born every year have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss.

Breaking one mercury light bulb in your home can contaminate your home to such a degree that hazardous materials experts are needed to remove the mercury. (At great cost, too. A typical mercury removal effort involving the breaking of a single fluorescent light can cost several thousand dollars.) The idea of allowing mercury to be placed in an easily breakable consumer product is fraught with public safety risks. In fact, it required a special exemption from the EPA to allow mercury-fluorescent lamps to be sold to consumers in the first place.

When a fluorescent light breaks, its vapors quickly escape and can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Most compounds of mercury are toxic, especially its organic compounds (such as methyl mercury).

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