FACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT ENERGY-SAVING BULBS
So I would like to provide some important additions to the facts and myths about compact energy saving fluorescent light bulbs. My back ground is in Environmental Science and Energy Consulting. I have been on the scene since 1981 teaching details about how we can save money, energy, and our environment, without making sacrifices. I was one, among the few, who taught green facts long before anyone else talked about Going Green.
With compact energy saving fluorescent light bulbs, yes they must be recycled because now everyone is using them. We cannot allow large amounts of mercury to be "dumped" because this will create a gateway for mercury to get into our drinking water tables. Now since these bulbs were actually available in 1982, but only became readily available in stores after North American Phillip's patents ran out almost twenty years later, recycle laws finally came about because of the increase of these bulbs sold.
With recycling, the solid plastic housing of these bulbs is opened and the double glass sealed envelope with mercury (far less mercury than the original bulbs of the 1980s) is removed for proper disposal. So with this design, EPA and other organization will error on the side of caution when they suggest how to deal with a broken bulb. In fact, research demonstrates that these bulbs do require careful handling and disposal, the hazard does not warrant evacuating the house or even the room. If this was true, the government would require a Warning Label on the light bulb box.
In 2008 the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, stated these bulbs contain 3 to 5 milligrams of mercury, about one-hundredth of the mercury in old thermostats that are still inside thousands of homes in America. Research also states that only a small residue of mercury would be released when a bulb breaks. This study was completed in 2011 and cited in the journal Environmental Engineering Science. Only 0.04 to 0.7 milligrams of mercury would exit the bulb when broken and it would take weeks for a dangerous amount of mercury to leak out. Thus an attentive and safe clean up will suffice. We are at greater risk of cutting ourselves with the broken glass, rendering an immediate room evacuation unnecessary. Just put on rubber gloves and place the broken bulb into a Zip-Lock plastic bag and then bring it to Home Depot or Lowe's for free recycling.
As for the good old fashioned light bulbs, they were never good, only old. A least 90% of the energy consumed to operate them creates heat and only 10% provides light. They are the most inefficient item designed by humankind. The difference betweem bulbs is significant and stated in numerous studies since 1988. A more recent study by California's Energy Commission talks about California households replacing five incandescent bulbs with compact energy saving fluorescent light bulbs to save 6.18 billion Kilowatt-hours that will prevent the release of 2.26 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Translation: Equivalent to removing 414,000 cars off the road. In addition, compact energy saving fluorescent light bulbs reduce the amount of mercury emitted into our atmosphere by coal-burning power plants which is the largest source of mercury pollution on our planet. Then there is mercury still being used in tooth fillings!
Most of the exaggerated myths on compact energy saving fluorescent light bulbs comes from the manufacturers, who twenty years ago didn't and couldn't (due to patents) make energy saving bulbs to compete with North American Philips. Also there was profit margin... Some friends in the light bulb industry told me that the cost was only 7 pennies from raw material to supermarket shelf to make an incandescent light bulb. This is a bulb that sells for 75 cents when on sale and burns out in three months when on 12 hours a day. That is what you call built in repeat business at the cost of our environment and health.
Updated Blog Post - Article on EnergyHotwire.com to GoingTrueGreen.com Blog
Bill Lauto, at GoingTrueGreen.com
International Sustainability and Energy Consultant
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