Tag Archives: cfl pollution

A good idea followed by a bad one

Richard Kaplan, the mayor of Lauderhill, Florida, had what he thought was a good idea to reduce his city’s lighting bill.  A story in the Sun Sentinel explains the idea:

why not use federal stimulus dollars to pay for swapping out bulbs in the roadside fixtures for more energy-efficient units?

By using state-of-the-art LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, Kaplan estimated his municipality could save 40 to 60 percent on its street-lighting bill, which is expected to reach $420,000 next year.

Sounds good, right?

But there was one problem. Even if the city reduced its electric consumption, Florida Power & Light Co. wouldn’t lower the bill. The city would still have to pay a statewide per-pole rate set by the utility and approved by regulators.

There is no break granted for LED lights and FPL has no immediate plan to institute one.

So Mayor Kaplan did the logical thing:

At this point, the mayor has abandoned plans to use any of the city’s $595,200 in federal energy stimulus funds for new streetlights.

“It won’t serve any real purpose until FPL changes its rules,” said Kaplan.

Unfortunately, Mayor Kaplan’s next idea for spending the city’s stimulus money wasn’t so good:

Kaplan said the city will use the money for other green projects, including handing out 10,000 of another type of energy-saving bulbs — compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs — to residents.

Each of those 10,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs contains mercury, a dangerous pollutant.  Let’s hope Mayor Kaplan saved some of Lauderhill’s stimulus money to pay for mercury clean-up at the city’s landfill.

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Compact fluorescent light bulbs don’t reduce pollution

Fans of compact fluorescent light bulbs try to shrug off the fact that these dangerous bulbs contain mercury, a substance that’s very hazardous to our health and our environment.  They say that power plants generate mercury, so producing less power means they produce less mercury.

But just about all the compact fluorescent light bulbs used in the United States are produced in China.  So, at best, people who use compact fluorescent light bulbs are trading pollution in the United States for pollution in China.


And let’s not forget that the mercury thrown away in compact fluorescent light bulbs each year is enough to pollute nearly every lake, pond, river and stream in North America.

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Are compact fluoresecent light bulbs really cheaper?

Proponents of compact fluorescent light bulbs claim they’re cheaper than incandescent light bubs, even though they cost more.  “The energy savings over the life of the bulb will more than make up for the expensive purchase price,” is the typical claim.

Have you ever seen a cost calculation that includes the cost of recycling compact fluorescent light bulbs?  I haven’t.  Why is this relevant?  Because CFL bulbs contain mercury, which is very hazardous to our environment.  And because recycling these killer light bulbs can be very expensive.  You can’t just throw them in your trash — that’s illegal in some states, in addition to being environmentally irresponsible.

LightBulbRecycling.com sells a compact fluorescent light bulb recycling kit for $107.95!  Factor that price tag into your cost equation and there’s not a chance that compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheaper than incandescent light bulbs.

Are there cheaper recycling alternatives?  You bet.  The cheapest alternative is to send your used light bulbs to Washington — to your Congressman, to your Senator, or to EPA headquarters.  For the cost of a zip-loc bag and a couple of postage stamps you can sleep at night knowing that your hazardous CFL bulbs are in the hands of the experts in Washington!


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More disadvantages of compact fluorescent light bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, which is a dangerous and hazardous material.  But that’s not the only reason not to like them.  Gomestic.com lists some of the other disadvantages of compact fluorescent light bulbs:

  1. CFLs evolve and newer models are getting better and better all the time. Still, they are not as versatile as incandescent lamps, and can’t be used for every household requirement. For example, CFLs usually take some time between being switched on and achieving full brightness. This time is even longer as the CFL approaches the end of its life. Cold temperatures make the situation even worse, with some CFLs not even starting in cold weather.
  2. Another downside for CFLs is that their lifespan is shortened considerably when they are switched on and off within short time frames. Think of the light that comes on automatically as you approach your garage, and then turns back off after a few minutes. CFLs are not a good option for this or other light activated motion sensors.
  3. CFLs are also not very suitable for dimming. If you require a dimmer controlled light source, CFLs are not a good option. Dimming shortens a CFL’s lifespan considerably, and the dimming range is disappointing. You’d really be better off sticking with a regular, incandescent light bulb for dimmed rooms.
  4. CFLs, unlike incandescent lamps, emit ultra violet and infra red light. The ultra violet light may damage paintings. The infra red, on the other hand, may interfere with remote-controlled devices such as your TV – since these will interpret the infra red light as a signal.

It’s outrageous that Uncle Sam is banning incandescent light bulbs and forcing Americans to use dangerous and inferior compact fluorescent light bulbs.  So if you have a compact fluorescent light bulb that doesn’t work any more, send it to Washington. Let them know what you think about their meddling.


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Humongous water pollution from compact fluorescent light bulbs

Supporters of compact fluorescent light bulbs like to talk about their benefits to our environment.  Here’s an example from CryuSpace.com:

One Compact fluorescent lamp… saves more than 2,000 times its own weight in greenhouse gasses.

Two Thousand Times. Think about it, if we all replace all our bulbs with CFLs what could happen? The average American household has 16-20 light bulbs. That’s 32,000 – 40,000 times less. Isn’t that quite an impact, just from ONE person?

Yes, let’s do think about it!  Let’s answer the quesiton: “if we all replace all our bulbs with CFLs what could happen?”

There are about 300 million people in the United States.  Let’s assume the average household has 4 people.  That makes 75 million households.  If the average American household has 16 light bulbs (the low end of the estimate from CryuSpace.com) then “if we all replace all our bulbs with CFLs” that makes 1.2 billion CFLs in place.

As we’ve noted previously, the mercury from one fluorescent bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking.  So “if we all replace all our bulbs with CFLs” then we’re introducing enough mercury into the environment to pollute 7.2 trillion gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking.

Of course, not all of the mercury from these light bulbs will pollute our environment. Not if you send your light bulbs to Washington!


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