We’ve written that compact fluorescent light bulbs pollute trillions of gallons of water. But how much water is that? NaturalNews.com puts these figures in perspective:
…the 30,000 pounds of mercury thrown away in compact fluorescent light bulbs each year is enough to pollute nearly every lake, pond, river and stream in North America (not to mention the oceans).
Just how dangerous is mercury? Here’s what NaturalNews.com has to say:
Mercury is a known neurotoxin, and elevated blood mercury levels may lead to retardation and deformities in children. Chest pains, dyspnea, coughing, hemoptysis, and sometimes interstitial pneumonitis leading to death may follow acute inhalation exposure to mercury vapor. In America, 1 in 6 children born every year 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.
If Americans adopt the use of even more compact fluorescent light bulbs, this ratio is like to substantially grow. Breaking one mercury light bulb in your home can contaminate your home to such a degree that hazardous materials experts are needed to remove the mercury. (At great cost, too. A typical mercury removal effort involving the breaking of a single fluorescent light can cost several thousand dollars.) The idea of allowing mercury to be placed in an easily breakable consumer product is fraught with public safety risks. In fact, it required a special exemption from the EPA to allow mercury-fluorescent lamps to be sold to consumers in the first place.
When a fluorescent light breaks, its vapors quickly escape and can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Most compounds of mercury are toxic, especially its organic compounds (such as methyl mercury).
A researcher at the University of Illinois at Springfield sums up the basic point behind these fluorescent bulbs: “People need to understand that these bulbs are considered “hazardous” and can cause long term damage to not only the environment, but if broken can cause health problems with people as well. Mercury has the ability to cause humans, as well as animals, serious health problems such as permanent nerve and kidney damage if exposed.”
Please, don’t put your used compact fluorescent light bulbs in the trash. Send them to Washington.
Awareness of the dangers from compact fluorescent light bulbs isn’t what it should be. How should people dispose of these dangerous light bulbs? This issue recently came before a committee of the Aiken County Council in South Carolina, according to a story in today’s August Chronicle:
The county has never had a formal procedure or policy concerning the bulbs, but County Administrator Clay Killian said the bulbs can be safely placed in a landfill or household trash, as long as one precaution is taken.
“They suggest, they being DHEC (the Department of Health and Environmental Control) and the people still writing the rules, you should put them in a plastic bag before you put it in your trash,” he said.
Such disposal, he said, is allowed because the bulbs are considered household hazardous waste, adding that “due to its low volume they can be disposed of in the landfill and regular trash.”
But the mercury from one compact fluorescent light bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking. As a nation, we’re already putting 600 million compact fluorescent light bulbs into our landfills every year. That’s enough mercury to pollute 3.6 trillion gallons of water.
We really don’t need the fine citizens of Aiken County, or anybody else, adding to this problem. By all means put your used compact fluorescent light bulb in a plastic bag. But don’t put it in your trash. Put it in a small box and mail it to your Congressman or Senator in Washington. Congress is forcing us to buy these dangerous light bulbs. Let Congress handle disposing of them. They’re the experts. They’ll know what to do.
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!