Compact fluorescent light bulbs aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be, says Howard Brandston in today’s Wall Street Journal:
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will effectively phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012-2014 in favor of compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. Other countries around the world have passed similar legislation to ban most incandescents.
Will some energy be saved? Probably. The problem is this benefit will be more than offset by rampant dissatisfaction with lighting. We are not talking about giving up a small luxury for the greater good. We are talking about compromising light. Light is fundamental. And light is obviously for people, not buildings. The primary objective in the design of any space is to make it comfortable and habitable. This is most critical in homes, where this law will impact our lives the most. And yet while energy conservation, a worthy cause, has strong advocacy in public policy, good lighting has very little.
Even without taking into account people’s preferences, CFLs, which can be an excellent choice for some applications, are simply not an equivalent technology to incandescents in all applications. For example, if you have dimmers used for home theater or general ambience, you must buy a compatible dimmable CFL, which costs more, and even then it may not work as desired on your dimmers. How environmental will it be for frustrated homeowners to remove and dispose of thousands of dimmers? What’s more, CFLs work best in light fixtures designed for CFLs, and may not fit, provide desired service life, or distribute light in the same pleasing pattern as incandescents. How environmental will it be for homeowners to tear out and install new light fixtures?
Add “bad light” to “health hazard” and “environmental damage” on the list of drawbacks to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The arrogance of our federal government in banning traditional incandescent light bulbs is outrageous. When your compact fluorescent light bulbs burn out, send them to Washington. Let the experts there handle the dangerous disposal problem.
Writer and commentator John Walsh says what lots of people are probably thinking about the European Union’s ban of incandescent light bulbs:
From a week today I shall be a marked man. An outlaw. A renegade, beyond the reach of polite society. Call me a dreamer but I believe there are others like me, out there on the hillsides, like wartime maquis or partisans, storing and stockpiling our precious supplies. I can’t be sure. This could be a one-man crusade….
Didn’t I mention what it was? Sorry. It’s light bulbs. As of 1 September, that’s it for light bulbs. Finito. It’s Goodnight Vienna for old-fashioned, Osram 40-watt or 60-watt, I’ve-just-had-a-good-idea light bulbs, the ones shaped like Philip Larkin’s head. Also the incandescent 100-watt ones that floodlight your kitchen. They’ve all been banned by European law, and nobody will be allowed to make them, import them or sell them in British shops after next Tuesday – from which day I’ll be stockpiling them like Fagin under the floorboards of my home, arranging secret “bulb drops” in Brockwell Park with the bloke from Herne Hill Electrical Goods Ltd and organising meetings in my draughty, lamplit cellar with similar suburban mavericks with whom I’ll plan the backlash …
The Brussels legislators want everyone henceforth to buy energy-saving bulbs, the harsh ones with fat filaments like tubular pasta. I could tell you that I think they’re rubbish, and they don’t light a room properly, but you’ll think me a whinger. I could point out that, by 2012, we’ll all be required to use compact fluorescent “green” light-bulbs from Chinese factories where many workers have been poisoned by their mercury content, but you’ll think me alarmist. My main objection is that I cannot stand any longer being told what to do by manufacturers, governments and shops…. I object to being forced by politicians to change the way I use light, and the strength of the light I use, because it will supposedly have an effect on climate change. It’s a simple objection, but a fundamental one. It’s, literally, elemental.
Send your used compact fluorescent light bulbs to Brussels, Mr. Walsh! Proper disposal is required to avoid serious health risks and environmental damage. The experts in Brussels are surely smart enough to handle the light bulb disposal problem in the proper way.
Incandescent light bulbs will start disappearing from store shelves in Europe next week, as the European Union’s light bulb ban starts taking effect.
Consumer groups in Europe are highlighting the health dangers of compact fluorescent light bulbs, according to a report in the New York Times:
Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumers’ Organization, said scrapping incandescent bulbs would prove a disadvantage for consumers who have a special sensitivity to certain kinds of light, and who need old-style bulbs for health reasons.
…Stephen Russell, the secretary-general of Anec, a group representing consumer interests in the development of product standards, also warned of continuing concerns about risks to health from the levels of mercury in some compact fluorescent bulbs….He also said that consumers should be able to return used bulbs to where consumers bought them, without charge.
Until they’ve got that set up, European consumers should send their used compact fluorescent light bulbs to European Union headquarters in Brussels. If the Eurobureaucrats are smart enough to tell everyone what kind of light bulbs to use, they’re certainly smart enough handle disposing of used light bulbs.
“The public have been asked to ‘snoop’ on shopkeepers who continue to sell traditional light bulbs banned by Europe,” reports the Telegraph:
From September 1, it will be illegal to import conventional pearl or frosted bulbs of any shape or wattage. Traditional incandescent bulbs of 100 watts will also be banned under European law aimed at reducing energy bills and carbon dioxide emissions.
They will be replaced by energy saving lights, which usually use flourescent tubes, but it is thought some consumers will still prefer their ‘traditional’ bulbs, particularly for reading lamps.
There is evidence of people hoarding the old fashioned bulbs around Europe and enforcement agencies are ready to crack down on unscrupulous businessmen who continue to import the “illegal bulbs” from factories in China.
In Britain, Trading Standards officers will be carrying out inspections and members of the public will be able to report any shop continuing to stock the illegal bulbs.
Any individual found importing the bulbs into the EU will face a £5,000 fine and it could be an unlimited amount for big companies.
If traditional incandescent light bulbs remain so popular, why are they being banned?
The Department for the Environment insisted it was necessary to use the law to ensure people buy energy efficient bulbs that will save them around £37 per annum on energy bills and save the UK one million tonnes of carbon every year.
Why is it “necessary to use the law” to force people to buy energy efficient light bulbs? If the claims about these light bulbs were true, wouldn’t people buy them voluntarily? Maybe the people in the UK have wised up to the fact that compact fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, a hazardous substance that can damage human health and the earth’s environment. Or maybe UK lawmakers think they’re smarter than the rest of the people in the UK.
If you live in the UK, send your used compact fluorescent light bulbs to Parliament in London, or to EU headquarters in Brussels.
Waste Management Corporation’s “EarthMate” compact fluorescent light bulbs come in a postage-paid box so you can send them back for recycling after they’ve burned out. Included is a “Mercury VaporLok” container so that there will be no mercury spill if the light bulb breaks in transit.
Lloyd Alter at TreeHugger.com likes the idea, but adds this caveat:
Of course, this costs money; they are charging $34 for a four-pack of bulbs, where Home Depot is selling 14 bulbs for $40 and offers recycling. That is too big a spread.
If Mr. Alter really cared about the environment, this price difference would be a small price to pay. Environmentalists talk a good game, but it’s mostly just talk. Only 2% of compact fluorescent light bulbs are recycled in the United States, even though they contain mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin and one of the most toxic chemicals known to man.
An Associated Press story about mercury pollution in the United States has this shocking news:
No fish can escape mercury pollution. That’s the take-home message from a federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday that tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country.
The toxic substance was found in every fish sampled, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.
Why should we care? Here’s why:
Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children.
Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on earth. One in six American children have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment, and short-term memory loss.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are the fasting-growing source of mercury pollution in the United States. The mercury from one CFL bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking. Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills, amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste. Only 2% of compact fluorescent light bulbs are recycled.
Growing use of mercury-containing compact fluorescent light bulbs, which is being caused by Washington’s ban of incandescent light bulbs, will make this already terrible situation even worse. Show your government how much you appreciate its meddling by sending your used compact fluorescent light bulbs to Washington. They’re the experts. They’ll know what to do with them.
Kate Kelly’s very informative Huffington Post piece about compact flourescent light bulbs tells us this:
In 2008 industry experts reported that only 2 percent of all CFL bulbs were being recycled.
Fluorescent bulbs that are not recycled go into the trash that then gets dumped into a local landfill. As rain comes down on the landfill, mercury from thousands of CFLs seeps into the local water supply, which then exposes both animals and humans to more mercury in the environment.
What are the implications of this? Govi Rao, the chairman of Lighting Sciences Group, explains:
“If everyone recycled, fluorescent lights would be all right, but it took people 25 years to become accustomed to recycling paper. Why do we think people will start recycling bulbs more quickly? Short-term, the CFL bulbs save energy, but long-term — without recycling — we cause mutation of the human race by poisoning our environment with mercury.”
If you use dangerous compact fluorescent light bulbs, you have three choices: recycle, mutate, or send your light bulbs to Washington!