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Saturday, July 12, 2008

More on the dangers of CFL bulbs

Finally, it seems like the hazards of Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs are getting some attention. Fox News presented the attached story (video in link) discussing the concerns if a bulb breaks due to the hazards of mercury. They also show the difficulty in cleaning up a broken bulb and how hard it is to dispose of. I suspect that most Americans will simply sweep up the glass and throw it in the trash which is the wrong thing to do.

Eventually we will be reading about how our municipal garbage dumps are toxic waste sites due to high concentrations of mercury.

As usual, the writers of Mallard Fillmore get the situation spot on:
The reality is that the CFL bulbs will be very hard to dispose of. Even non broken bulbs will be a problem because of the potential to break. Recyclers do not want them so how do you get rid of them?

I think the above panel illustrates the real problem with the modern environmental movement. Environmentalists think that human beings should take second place to the planet overall and that we should sacrifice - even to the point of death - to save the planet and animals hereon. Some environmentalists have actually called for the extermination of a couple billion of us to get the population down to supposedly more acceptable levels. (Sorry I do no remember the source - WND or Drudge I am sure). And the Pope himself has warned against placing environmental extremism ahead of human dignity and human life (see earlier post).

Reality Check:

OK, let's step back a moment and look at a few other facts. Fluorescent bulbs have been in office buildings and stores for decades. Most of us over 35 have small amounts of mercury in our mouths in the form of an amalgam in our fillings. These have not created any issues that we are aware of. Current CFL bulbs contain 20% less mercury than earlier versions and certainly contain less mercury than the long tube type fluorescent bulbs. So what is the issue:

I see two things in issue.

One is that as the use of CFL's increases dramatically, the quantity of mercury in the municipal waste stream, whether to the dump or to a recycling center, will also increase to the point where what was just trace amounts will become much higher concentrations that may cause environmental and health hazards. Remember that the use of lead in everyday life was one of the things that led to the demise of the Roman Empire as emperors and the upper class went crazy from the ingestion of the lead in their food and wine.

The other issue is that the US Government is forcing this change. In 2012, incandescent bulbs will be banned. We will have to switch whether we want this hazard in our homes or not. No ability for market forces to drive the change. No room for research into filament development for materials that can glow using less energy. It's CFL's or nothing. Maybe we can go back to candles. While this change is being forced on us, the hazards are not even being communicated except on the EPA website. And even here I had to look up Mercury Spills... CFL's are not listed until 2/3rds of the way down the page.

  • We need to overturn the ban on incandescent light bulbs.
  • We need to fully communicate the benefits and the dangers of CFL technology completely and honestly

If people are allowed to make an informed choice over which type of light they want to use, then we can move forward to find the best way to reduce energy usage, protect human health and protect the environment. Until then, having an all or nothing approach is a recipe for disaster.

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