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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fluorescents Bad!

Okay, seriously, why are we all being encouraged to switch to compact fluorescents? They are extremely hazardous if broken, and the mercury is a bigger issue as an environmental contaminant if most Americans start chucking their CF bulbs in the trash. You've gotta know that the average person is completely unaware of the hazards associated with the bulbs and totally ignorant to the idea that you can't just chuck them in the trash or recycling bin like a normal bulb.

I'm all for more efficient light sources, but how about we wait on this change until there's something that is safe, can be disposed of via normal means, and produces a pleasing light? Clearly that's just asking too much, but seriously, I'm not only not on this bandwagon, I'm ready to start defacing it to let others know about the issues.


  • Yeah,
    someone at work asked me about that recently. It's kinda disturbing because I know I replaced one in the past year and just tossed it because I didn't know any better. There is a recycler here in Berkeley that will take them. Thankfully.
    in San Jose you can use this link to find a recycler

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 12:33 PM  

  • Why is the world freaking out flourescent bulbs now? They've been around for decades (in traditional tube form) and have always contained mercury. The bigger the bulb, the more mercury, period. Compact flourescents contain less mercury than those huge 3 foot or 4 foot long bulbs you see in nearly every workplace in the country.

    Oh, and by the way, what do you do with your dead batteries? What did you do with them 10 years ago? When you were a child? Well, they've got serious amounts of heavy metals too, and are nearly as bad for ground water.

    By Blogger slacy, at 2:42 PM  

  • The world (or at least me) is freaking out now because they tried to ban traditional bulbs earlier this year and because they're being touted for home use as an environmentally sound option, totally neglecting the environmental impact.

    As for batteries, yes, tons of them are in land fills. This sucks. For the past few years, I've been saving them in a plastic cup under the sink,, then bringing them to work to recycle whenever the cup fills up. This is because San Jose doesn't recycle them the way Mountain View does - in a battery bag on top of your recycle bin.

    By Blogger Ammy, at 2:46 PM  

  • The concern for me is that there is a very public push to increase the number of fluorescent bulbs in use - which will ultimately increase the probability that they will be improperly disposed of.

    It's true that batteries, fluorescent bulbs and a whole host of other environmentally damaging items have been improperly disposed of for years. This does not negate the need to do what we can to avoid *further* impact.

    I would be perfect happy seeing bills that would ban the use of incandescent bulbs if they were coupled with public awareness campaign funds.

    The same applies for me with San Francisco and the ban on plastic grocery bags - there should be an increased push for reusable bags.

    It's bad practice to solve one problem while, in the process, knowingly create another that you're not prepared to address. The popularity of supporting environmental initiatives, however, seems to be generating a great deal of this.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 3:58 PM  

  • Yes, Mercury in CFL bad. But remember the flip side. If not using CFLs, you probably are using Edison type bulbs. All the extra energy consumed by them must have a downside pollution wise, whether it be more garbage and CO2 (if you believe in the whole global warming thing) spewed into the air from fossil fuels, or more nuclear waste created, or damage to fish populations from hydroelectric.

    I personally believe the minute amount of mercury released by breaking or landfilling them is less dangerous then the alternatives of using a regular light bulb.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 3:50 PM  

  • Long ago, I did some transcription for G. Fred Lee who has a whole host of papers and articles about landfills leaching into groundwater. By the time people realize their drinking water is contaminated with mercury it will be too late.

    By Blogger Kim, at 4:13 PM  

  • When I was a kid, I used to deliberately break the thermometers in order to get at the Mercury and play with it! Really the amount of Hg in a CFL is minute. Here's a much more prevalent environmental hazard to worry about: phthalates! Speaking as a chemist and a mom, that's one environmental contaminant that I do think is underestimated in importance by the ACC. And banning the use of phthalates in baby toys isn't enough. It's the mom's concentration of phthalates that contributes to the phthalate related birth defects.

    And, as for the harshness of the light coming from a CFL bulb, my advice is stay away from the ones labeled "daylight".

    By Blogger Unknown, at 8:28 AM  

  • @Kevin: I'm not one of those suggesting that we avoid the use of CFL bulbs -- on the contrary, I'm all for it. I simply believe that any promotion of them *must* be accompanied by a public awareness campaign on proper disposal. I think this should also be increased for batteries and introduced for a host of items we put in to the landfills.

    Let us not simply choose the lesser of two evils - but look for reasonable solutions to the new problems we create in the process.

    Saying simply, "CFL is better and we'll worry about disposal later," means, as Kim points out, that it may be too late before we do anything. Planning ahead will not require a great deal of rocket surgery -- even for public policy makers.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:56 AM  

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