Monthly Archives: January 2012

                    A Mercurial Twist


cfl warming children


Washington Times Editorial January 27 2012
Obama’s Twisty Light Bulb Logic

President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution.” Of course, no one is asking him to back down. There is no movement in favor of exposing kids to mercury poisoning. It was like boldly proclaiming opposition to organized dog fights.

Mr. Obama was obliquely referring to his support for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule issued late last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a December presidential memorandum, Mr. Obama claimed that “by substantially reducing emissions of pollutants that contribute to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses and other health risks, the MATS Rule will produce major health benefits for millions of Americans – including children, older Americans and other vulnerable populations.” MATS is the most expensive EPA rule revision in history, and compliance will cost power plants $10-18 billion a year. These costs will be passed directly to consumers.

Some critics have charged that hyping mercury poisoning in MATS was just a cover for the EPA to ramp up its regulatory assault on the coal industry. Trace amounts of mercury from coal-fired power-plant emissions affect a small number of Americans, chiefly those who live near the emissions sources.

At the same time, however, the Obama administration has been trying to force Americans to accept even greater mercury risks by insisting that traditional incandescent light bulbs be replaced with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

The mercury vapor in CFLs is at a much more dangerous concentration than anything coming out of power plants. The associated risks are magnified because the toxic vapors and dust from a broken bulb would be contained in a room or enclosed area.
The same EPA that is sounding the alarm about mercury emissions from power plants has written a detailed guide explaining how to respond to a broken CFL. It involves, among other things, evacuating the room in which the breakage occurs, shutting down central heating and air conditioning, airing out the room, carefully collecting bulb fragments and dust with rolled up duct tape, and placing all cleanup materials in airtight bags in a protected area outdoors pending proper disposal.
Who knew that dropping a light bulb would instantly turn a home into a HAZMAT zone?

If Mr. Obama had his way, fluorescent lights would be in every home and school in America.
The administration was set to enforce the ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs that passed in 2007 and was to begin this year, but a provision was included in the budget bill passed in December that would prohibit the Obama administration from spending any money to enforce the light-bulb ban. Energy Secretary David [Steven] Chu mocked this as “a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.” But it might also let them better protect their kids.

Remember when you are handling a CFL that it contains potentially deadly poisons. You can recognize the bulbs because they are twisty, like Mr. Obama’s policy logic.


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CFLs, Costly and Dangerous:              Can Cause Fires, even Explosions

Thank you to Light Bulb Choice for this!

Their news post, in turn links to the Edmund Contoski authored document
(pdf, from the Science & Public Policy Institute, alternative source link here).

Edited blog post copy:

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) Are Costly and Dangerous Can Cause Fires – Even Explosions!

Table of Contents

pg 03 Fires and Explosions from CFLs
pg 04 The PROVEN Dangers of Mercury in CFLs
pg 06 Other Hazardous Chemicals in CFLs
pg 07 False Information on CFL Costs and Bulb Life
pg 09 Recycling Costs, Health and Environmental Dangers
pg 10 What About LEDs?
pg 11 Other Problems
pg 12 Is Government Really Smarter Than the Consumers?


Mercury—The danger is far greater than admitted.
CFLs Save Money? — The numbers are false!
CFL Bulb Life — Wildly exaggerated
CFLs = Environmental Hazard

The latest recall:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on May 12, 2011 issued a recall order for sixteen models of Telstar and Electra brand CFLs in twelve different wattages: “Hazard: The light bulbs can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.” The recall order involved 317,000 light bulbs.

More about Ed Contoski’s work can be seen on
CFL life warranty  and  CFL fire risk  sections.

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Light Bulb Phaseout Worse Than Reported

  January 12 Investor’s Business Daily article, with highlighting.



Environmentalism: As the light bulb phaseout goes into effect, you may be surprised to know the law also requires their already-costly replacements to be phased out too.

That’s right, new light bulb efficiency standards set by Washington also mandate light bulbs become 70% more efficient than classic bulbs by 2020. The only bulbs that meet that higher standard are light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. And they are even more expensive than compact fluorescent lamps.

CFLs will replace incandescent bulbs to meet the first level of efficiency that’s been widely reported in the media. By 2014, household bulbs using between 40 and 100 watts will need to consume at least 28% less energy under a stupid law passed by Congress in 2007.

But a little-noticed provision of the law, known as the Energy Independence and Security Act, also sets a second efficiency goal of 70% that must be met nationwide by 2020.

LEDs already exceed that goal. But an LED replacement for a 50-cent, 60-watt incandescent bulb costs as much as $60. No doubt costs will drop by 2020.

But it’s yet another unnecessary federal mandate looming on the horizon for consumers — many of whom are perfectly happy with their old bulbs.

The federal regulation effectively bans those bulbs by halting their manufacture. Major bulb makers have already made the plant investments to follow the law.

As of Jan. 1, traditional 100-watt bulbs no longer meet standards, and are no longer stocked in stores. Starting next January, the 75-watt incandescent bulb also will be phased out, followed by the 60-watt version in 2014.

The Energy Dept. claims each household can save $50 a year in electricity by replacing 15 traditional bulbs. But the costs of the new CFLs exceed those savings. And they’ll only get worse with LEDs.

Here’s what’s really crazy: Two years before it banned classic bulbs in favor of mercury vapor CFLs, Congress passed a law banning mercury vapor streetlights. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, manufacturers cannot make or import ballasts for mercury vapor lights after Jan. 1, 2008.

According to the act, mercury vapor security lights are being phased out to “protect the environment” and to “promote energy efficiency” in lighting.

Utility companies across the country have been replacing mercury street lamps with high-pressure sodium fixtures or metal halide fixtures, which are twice as efficient as mercury vapor and possibly safer.

The government warns that the amount of mercury in one CFL bulb is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels. The same agency that’s pitching them as a green alternative requires households perform a small hazmat operation to dispose of them upon breakage.

The Energy Dept. recommends numerous steps to “reduce exposure to mercury vapor from a broken bulb,” including shutting off the air conditioning for “several hours” and even removing pets from the contaminated room. It advises picking up debris with duct tape, enclosing it in a glass jar and taking it to a special recycling center for proper disposal.

So the geniuses in Washington are removing mercury from outside the home, while adding it inside. And making us all pay for it. Yet another bright idea from Congress.



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Meet Mr Stinkypants!

From the Freedom Light Bulb blog,
commenting on CFL subsidies and replacement programs in relation to a recent cartoon that also takes up how manufacturers are profiting from the ban on cheap incandescents.




Always interesting when support against light bulb regulations comes from unlikely sources…

Green and sustainability practicing Montana software engineer turned farmer, Paul Wheaton, has interesting Permaculture based forums that also happen to have good coverage of light bulb issues.

Also see his comprehensive CFL article, well linked with videos etc.

And don’t miss his just completed (December 2011) Mr Stinkypants Cartoon on how manufacturers profit from the ban!



The cooperation between light bulb manufacturers is no fairy tale, reflected in the Phoebus cartel: GE, Philips, Osram and others cooperating for several decades to keep lifespans down.
That is why even today the standard incandescent lifespan is 1000 hrs. Recent German research shows how a special “1000 hr lifespan committee” punished those who manufactured any longer lasting bulb. Communist long lasting bulbs were blocked for Western markets….


Unsurprising then, to see renewed manufacturer cooperation in later years, regarding both subsidised CFL programs and indeed regulations that more forcibly ensures that more profitable “energy saving” bulbs are sold in place of the old cheap incandescents.


This kind of manufacturer cooperation with public authorities has gone way beyond the USA or the EU:
Note how the world’s 2 biggest light bulb manufacturers, Philips and Osram/Sylvania, are involved in the UN sponsored worldwide switchover program, en.lighten. As part of that, a recently announced “Efficient Lighting Toolkit” will be available in 2012, which will “provide comprehensive guidance to countries on how to transform their markets to energy efficient lighting”.
More in a later blog post.

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Lamp Recycling Information




Given our emphasis on CFL safe disposal and recycling:
How does one find out more about it?

As they say themselves on their website, lighting manufacturers, through their trade association, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) developed to provide a one-stop source of information about recycling lamps (the term used in the lighting industry to refer to all types of light bulbs).
This follows their earlier extensive study (pdf) on the subject.

Also see the extensive EPA information on recycling, linking to waste collection agencies, participating retailers, and much else of interest.

This Earth911 search may (or may not!) automatically show the collection center nearest your computer IP address.
Their CFL recycling page is here

[ However, the useful information on these sites should also be taken with a pinch of salt as regards their defence of “ballpoint pen tip” mercury amounts, toxicity of course is not just connected to quantity but also proximity, as again when they compare CFL mercury to coal mercury emissions etc, the latter being under 90% EPA reduction mandates anyway.
See, the CFL mercury issue:  Breakage — Recycling — Dumping — Mining — Manufacturing — Transport — Power Plants ]


This post will probably be updated and in part copied to the information section, also with the related Facebook page.


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…and some Humor from Massachusetts

From the Easy Opinions blog,
“Opinions about the not so Obvious”



Fred: Thank you Jim for landing the CFL United ad account. Let’s work out the ad campaign.

Mike: I didn’t get the memo. What does CFL United do?

Techno: They make Compact Fluorescent Lights. They are like those four foot tubes you see in warehouses, but these are about 1 foot long, really thin, and twisted around so they can fit in a the space of a light bulb. They have a different coating so the light isn’t so blue, but more yellow. Sometimes they put a glass bulb around them so they look more regular.

Jim: These CFL’s are great. Should be a lot easier to sell than bottled water. They actually save money, use less electricity, and are cooler. Let’s just sell them as a win win win.

Fred: Here are the talking points:
Costs less
Uses 1/4 of the electricity for the same light as from a Regular 100 watt bulb
Lasts 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for a regular bulb.

Techno: Uh, they don’t cost less. A CFL is $5.00, a Regular is $.50 .

Mike: OK, there is big hit up front, but they save money on electricity, right?

Techno: Over its lifetime of 10,000 hours, a 25 watt CFL uses 250 KWH (kilowatt hours), compared to the same light from 10 Regular 100 watt bulbs, each lasting 1000 hours, and using 1000 KWH total.
Here is the summary for 10,000 hours of use, with electricity costing $.10 per KWH.
100 watt Reg 10 bulbs $5.00   1,000 KWH $100.00
25 watt CFL 1 bulb         $5.00       250 KWH    $25.00       Saves $75.00

Mike: OK, no problem. Buy 10 CFL’s and save $750. Get rich!

Techno: Yeah, if you don’t turn them off.

Fred: Is that supposed to be a joke?

Techno: Not really a joke. CFL’s are complicated. First, they need a high voltage to operate, which they get from some miniaturized electronics in the base.
Second, they have a coating on the inside metal contacts which helps the electricity start flowing. They are hard to get going. When you turn one on, the electronics take some stress and that metal coating evaporates a bit.

Turning one on takes away some of the CFL’s life.
Once on, no problem. Turn one on and it can last 10,000 hours.
If you turn it off, you have to turn it on later, which costs some of its life. So, don’t turn it off!.

Jim: Whoa! We can’t tell people to just leave them on. How long do they last if you turn them off?

Techno: That’s hard to say. CFL United isn’t too clear about the matter. They don’t say, really. And the aftermarket studies don’t dwell on this either. But, reasoning backward from some statements here and there, I estimate that the consumer grade CFL loses 5 hours of life each time it is turned on.

Mike: So you get 10,000 hours or 2,000 on/off cycles, whichever comes first. What if I put one in the bathroom? I bet my family turns that light on and off about 10 times a day, for about 5 minutes each time.

Techno: That CFL is going to last about 6 months (200 days). A Regular bulb in that use would last about 39 months. Regular bulbs don’t care if they are turned on and off. In that use, the CFL costs $9.89/yr compared to the Regular at $3.04/yr, counting cost of bulbs and electricity. This is mostly the cost of bulbs for the CFL, and the cost of electricity for the Regular.

Mike: (shaking his head slowly) Not good. Not good. Is there anywhere these CFL’s can actually be used cost effectively?

Jim: How about the kitchen or family room?

Techno: Yes, if you need to leave them on for a while, CFL’s are cost effective. Fluorescent bulbs are always used in warehouses and offices, where they are on for 8-16 hours per day.

Jim: Cut the suspense. How long for our CFL?

Techno: I figure that the break-even is about 20 minutes. If you need the light on for at least 20 minutes, the CFL saves enough on electricity to offset the cost of turning it on, compared to a Regular 100 watt bulb. After that, you actually save money, about $.0075 per hour (3/4 cents).

In the winter, the break-even is 38 minutes, because you benefit from the expensive heat that the Regular bulb puts out.
In the summer, the break-even is 15 minutes, because the greater heat of the Regular bulb requires more air-conditioning.

Mike: We’re saved. They are actually good for something after all.

Fred: OK people, calm down. We’ve been through this sort of thing before. We have our campaign.

Saves 75% of the electricity of a regular bulb.
Lasts 10,000 hours* compared to 1,000 hours for regular bulbs.
Saves $50 per bulb over its lifetime, compared to using regular 100 watt bulbs.
Environmentally friendly
* As measured in bulb-life studies. For maximum bulb life, leave the bulb on for 15 minutes or more for each use.

Jim: I like the part about maximum bulb life. It slyly suggests that even if the bulb might be injured by short uses, you can heal it by leaving it on a bit longer.

Mike: Why do we claim only $50 per bulb in savings?

Fred: Clearly these bulbs aren’t going to last 10,000 hours, so we’ll claim more reasonable savings, but still big. Since they can use less energy, in the right situations, they are environmentally friendly. Right?

Jim: You have a strange look on your face Techno.

Techno: What about the other facts? Do you guys have my memo?

Mike: I didn’t quite read that memo. What’s in it?

Techno: There are a few other things.

•   Most CFL’s contain about 5 mg of mercury.
They are supposed to be disposed of as hazardous waste, but there is no program to take them. They need a careful cleanup if you break one.

•   The twisty ones, with no outer glass bulb, can emit enough UV radiation at 1 foot away to produce a sunburn.

•   If you use them in an enclosed fixture, or base up in the ceiling, the electronics get hot, and its life is reduced. I couldn’t find out by how much.

•   There are many manufacturers, and you can’t tell how long a brand is going to last, or how it reacts to heat or on/off cycles. You need to trust, or you can always pay more for a higher quality CFL. They are somewhat longer and wider than a regular bulb, so they don’t fit everywhere.

•   Many CFL’s, especially the $5 ones, have a slow start-up. It takes them 30 seconds to 3 minutes to fully light up.

•   If you use them outdoors in the cold, some of them never fully light up, or they don’t start at all.

•   You can’t use the cheap CFL’s with a dimmer, but there are some that will work.

•   CFL’s are fluorescent. Some people get headaches from the light, or they see the 60 cycle flicker and can’t read by them, or they hate the color of the light, or they hear a faint buzz.

•   CFL’s get 20% dimmer as they age toward failure.

•   A house has many bulbs that are almost never used. It makes no sense to place $5 bulbs in those locations, rather than a $.50 bulb that will last for 5 years anyway.

Jim: That is a lot to handle.
How is CFL United going to sell these things?

Fred: Need I remind you that CFL United has hired us?
We are helping them sell these things. Also, we are informed that CFL United has done a good job in the US Congress pushing the idea of saving energy. So, everyone is going to buy CFL’s, because the Regular bulb is going to be prohibited. Green technology and all of that.

Guys, we have our campaign.
Techno, you are always unhappy. CFL’s have a few flaws, but there is no need to go into the small details.
Let’s get the art work in production and sell, sell, sell.

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“Poor CFL Recycling” delays Canada Bulb Ban

As you may have heard,
Canada has delayed their incandescent bulb ban or “phase out”.
More about the decision can be read here.

Meanwhile, the lack of recycling has emerged as a main reason for the delay…

(From CBC Canada  Dec 30 2011 slightly edited)



A lack of recycling options for the mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), touted by government as the environmentally friendly lighting alternative, has in part led to a delay in new federal energy efficiency regulations.

The regulations, which ban 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs, were supposed take effect Jan. 1, 2012.
But last month, the federal government quietly delayed that ban by two years, citing recycling issues and “perceived health effects.”


The bulbs contain mercury, a dangerous toxin, and need to be disposed of correctly.
According to Environment Canada, less than 10 per cent of CFLs are recycled. And tens of millions are sold each year.

“[Mercury] can affect our neurological development, especially in children. And for pregnant women, it’s a danger,” said Josh Brandon of the Winnipeg-based Green Action Centre.

“We often think of landfills as a permanent solution — that what we put in the landfills stays in the landfills.
“But landfills eventually do break down. And when they do, the toxic materials like mercury can leach into the environment, polluting our groundwater and our soil.”

Brandon says the mercury from one CFL can contaminate thousands of litres of water.


And if you break a CFL, Health Canada has extensive cleanup instructions that include leaving the room for 15 minutes to avoid mercury vapours.


Few provinces have programs in place to deal with CFLs, and most programs are voluntary.

British Columbia, which passed its own set of energy efficiency regulations on Jan. 1, 2011, requires manufacturers and retailers to develop an end of life plan for CFLs.

But other provinces have minimal, if any, programs in place.

Some big box stores like Home Depot will take them back.
For smaller retailers like Pollock’s Hardware Co-op in Winnipeg, there are few options. General manager Mike Wolchock said he had no luck when he tried to organize a recycling program two years ago.

Environment Canada says it’s working on regulations to make manufacturers recycle the bulbs, but these won’t be in place until 2013.

Some companies are also making CFLs with less mercury.


For the time being, Curran Faris is keeping CFLs out of his daughter’s bedroom, in case a bulb breaks.

“It’s one of those things — as a consumer we should be told that information, not that these are the new miracle bulbs that can stop global warming.”

The light bulb ban is particularly wrong for Canada and several similar American states, as covered on and relating to energy use, emissions, Canadian household size and lamp variety, cold switch-on conditions, heat replacement effect, existing CFL programs etc with references



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