This is a Shoe Story, Believe it or Not

false               pants on fire          


Update 20 February
The mentioned Virginia politician Bob Marshall is challenging the Richmond Times/Politifact article, and indeed challenging other denials regarding CFL mercury issues and what CFL clean-up and disposal guidelines are, with many more references.


(original post below 16 February)

“Politifact” is one of those sites that under cloak of neutrality really has an agenda in whatever it takes on.
Researchers in several states look at what politicians are saying.

From the Virginia site:

The underlying principle is that fact-checking is a special form of journalism that demands solid research and transparency.
The research begins by checking with the source of the statement to find out where they got their facts.
We always give the politicians the chance to explain their numbers or their reasoning.
We then use multiple sources to check those facts

How we work:
Once a statement is chosen for scrutiny by PolitiFact editor Warren
Fiske, either he or reporter Jacob Geiger researches the claim. The first call goes to the person who made the statement.
From there, we check documents and transcripts and databases and then
interview independent sources.
Once the research has been done to support a ruling on the Truth-O-Meter, the story is written and the writer recommends a ruling on the Truth-O-Meter.
Three editors then meet to make the final ruling on the Truth-O-Meter.
The story then goes on and into the next day’s


And so the decision was made to nail local Virginia politician Bob Marshall for saying
If the mercury contaminates your shoes, you are supposed to throw away your shoes.

Talk about splitting hairs:
Since the EPA clean up directives are obviously onerous enough (with more in the 2011 EPA document), then it seems a moot point.

But the Politifact article headlines…

Del. Bob Marshall says you’re supposed to throw away your shoes if a CFL light bulb breaks on them

Not a great start, since that is not what he said… continuing (extracts)

Some of the sites Marshall cited don’t specifically say they’re providing instruction on how to handle a broken CFL bulb. They are advising how to deal with a larger mercury release, such as the dispersal of the “quicksilver” liquid mercury when a glass thermometer breaks.

For example, the fact sheet from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection that Marshall cited urges homeowners get rid of contaminated shoes and clothing after cleaning up “visible mercury beads.”

Robert Francis, manager of the environmental response branch at the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, said his agency’s recommendation for getting rid of shoes tainted by mercury is a reference to what should be done in case of a larger spill than a light bulb break. He said his agency doesn’t have a recommendation on whether shoes should be thrown out if they’re contaminated by a bulb breakage.

Marshall said that when shoes are contaminated with mercury from a broken CFL bulb, “you’re supposed to throw them out.”

The websites of environmental agencies in four states advise throwing out clothing — and sometimes shoes — contaminated by a significant mercury release, such as the amount that would come from an old thermometer.

But CFL bulbs have a tiny fraction of a thermometer’s mercury. None of the agencies specifically advise throwing shoes hit by a broken CFL. Two of the states’ websites say to clean off the shoes. Our quick search found five additional state websites that recommended wiping off the shoes off and not a single state that advised to throw them out. The Environmental Protection Agency offers no shoe advice.

Marshall hasn’t proved his claim. We rate his statement False.

while often there is no specific advice one way or the other, several sites do say to clean rather than throw away the shoes – so that it seems Bob Marshall may have exaggerated in that regard…

as I have seen Politifact’s agenda before regarding the light bulb issue
(“this is not really a ban,  stupid republicans” type of “pants on fire” labelled statements,  ignoring the effective ban as referenced),
I was curious if the issue was that clear cut – after all, Bob Marshall presumably got his information from somewhere

And indeed,
the main Kentucky information, from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, Mercury spills document
(they may of course change this subsequently: here is a downloaded copy..!)

“Cleaning up small spills (the amount from a thermometer or less)”
A set of instructions, then:
“When you are finished, place contaminated shoes and clothing into a garbage bag – double-bag it for good measure.”
They also talk about cutting out and removing contaminated parts of the carpet…
mirroring most of the mercury clean-up instructions from other sources as linked on the Ceolas website CFL mercury section (

But of course,
it is “no fun” to see that politicians might be justified to believe information from an official site,  no fun that criticism of the source rather than the politician might be more relevant…   😉


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