Are CFL Bulbs the Best Option?

CFL bulbs are often recommended for saving electricity. Are they your best option? The information included here should help you make that decision before you buy.

Compact Florescent Lamps (CFLs) are promoted by some organizations as a way to reduce electric consumption and pollution. Some utility companies have purchased large quantities and distributed them to their customers for free.

Whether or not the customers were provided with safe-handling and disposal instructions or the health risks that may accompany their use is unknown. It’s safe to say that they were not told about better options like LED light bulbs.

CFL Bulb Dangers?

cfl bulb, dangers of cfl bulbs

Like all fluorescent lighting, CFLs contain the toxic heavy metal called mercury. It’s not a large amount of mercury, but it is enough to warrant concern. If a bulb is broken inside the home, the mercury will be absorbed by carpeting. According to research conducted in Maine, the mercury cannot be removed from carpeting by following the EPA’s suggested cleanup guidelines.

Children playing on the carpet will be exposed to relatively high concentrations of mercury in the air for several weeks following the breakage, according to the study. (LED energy saving light bulbs, on the other hand, contain no hazardous materials. They are even safer than a traditional light bulb, because they have no glass tubes to break.)

Depending on where you live, disposal of used CFLs may be a problem. In the states of California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota, they cannot be disposed of along with the rest of your trash.

The mercury released in landfills and incinerators is hazardous to the environment and the health of landfill workers. In many states, the question of how to safely dispose of the lamps has been debated.

The EPA recommends double-bagging in plastic before disposal. Maine researchers say that is the worst choice, because the vapors will escape from the bags at levels too high to be considered safe. They suggest sealing the bulb in a glass jar. But, what happens when the glass jar breaks?

On the other hand, LED energy saving light bulbs can be disposed of along with your regular household trash. They use even less electricity and have a similar lifespan.

All of us are interested in saving electricity, primarily because of environmental concerns. It just doesn’t make sense to recommend something that is damaging to the environment in order to conserve. It seems to defeat the purpose.

There is also concern for the people that work in the factories where CFLs are assembled. Many are produced in China, where there is little concern for employee’s safety. Hundreds of Chinese factory workers have been poisoned and hospitalized due to mercury exposure.

There are other health risks having to do with the UV radiation emitted by the CFL bulbs. See the video below for a firsthand account of people who claim they were injured by these bulbs.

There are other disadvantages that include failure to start up during cold weather, fading of paintings, carpets and other fabrics caused by the light colors emitted and the limited amount of light produced in general.

Because of environmental, public health, humanitarian and aesthetic concerns, CFL bulbs do not seem like the right choice. LED light bulbs could be a better way to go.

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Building Your Green Home Page

Link to article in Times Online published May 2009 "Green lightbulbs poison workers

Maine Compact Fluorescent Lamp Breakage Study Report link:

Mercury spills disposal and Cleanup from the EPA link:

Article concerning brightness of CFLs vs standard bulbs: ght-bulbs-offer-dim-future.html


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