Monday, January 7, 2008

Fluorescent Lamps & Mercury

I just did a little research on fluorescent lighting and I'm a little confused. The consensus is that fluorescent lights are better for the environment yet they contain mercury. And we all know that mercury is bad for the environment, right? So, my question is... which is correct? You choose.

From Environmental Health, Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department

"Fluorescent lights contain mercury and per Washington State regulations, are classified as hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of in the garbage."

"Mercury is a highly toxic element that does not break down. Each year, broken fluorescent lamps release an estimated 500 pounds of mercury in Washington. Workers may be exposed to elevated levels of mercury in the vicinity of newly broken lamps."

"Mercury in the atmosphere eventually becomes deposited on the ground and in water. A recent Department of Ecology study found elevated mercury levels in bass from 70% of lakes sampled in Washington..."

And, before you think I'm only showing you the argument against fluorescent

"Fluorescent lamps are still a good environmental and economic choice because they are energy efficient ― using one-quarter the energy of incandescent lamps and lasting up to ten times longer. Reducing energy cuts down on power plant emissions of mercury and other emissions that contribute to global climate change, acid rain, and smog."

Finally, here's the kicker for me..

What to Do if You Break a Lamp
"If a lamp is broken, carefully sweep it up—not vacuum—all of the glass fragments and any powder. Place the broken pieces in a plastic bag and wipe the area with a damp paper towel. Put the used towel in the plastic bag as well and then place in a 5-gallon bucket or container with a lid. Ventilate the area well."

As a mother, and a concerned citizen, I get worried when research can cancel out it's findings of the "next great thing" with findings that it's hazardous to your health. I want to make the world a better place for my child (excuse the "save the world pun") but I also want to be an informed consumer, considering all the pros and cons of a particular item that not only affects my health but the health of others.

Some red flags that concern me regarding fluorescent lighting are... (A.) they contain mercury and mercury doesn't break down in the environment. And (B.) when you have to go through such strict measures to clean up a broken light bulb shows me that it's not as good as it's hyped up to be.

I know that the government and certain environmentally conscious groups are heavily pushing fluorescent lighting. Much of the public is buying the arguments being presented to us regarding how good fluorescent lights are for the environment. I'll admit that I was one of those misguided by all the information presented until I did some research of my own.

And so that is exactly what I'm asking you to do... research this on your own and make the decision for yourself and your family. Don't just blindly follow what you are being told, even what I've just shared with you. Be an informed consumer. Know what you are bringing into your household and the risks that go along with it. Our health and the future health of our children depends upon the choices we make today.


jenni said...

Yeah, mercury is bad. However, the light bulbs actually do conserve energy and cut down on your electric bill big time. But we only have one such light bulb in our house at the moment...

Kimberly said...

I understand that the lightbulbs help to conserve energy. My concern is what happens to the health of those who have an accident with one in their homes. With children, and pets, in a home there are all kinds of accidents that can happen. I know we can't protect them from everything but I don't want to pose an unnecessary risk by bringing something into the house that could hurt them.

jenni said...

I hear you!