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Dangerous misinformation about mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs

Proponents of compact fluorescent light bulbs often play down the fact that these light bulbs contain mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin.  For example, Cindi Hinton dishes out this nonsense on Examiner.com:

They only contain 1.4 to 4 milligrams of mercury. That’s about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen.

The amount of mercury that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen is enough to pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking, according to LightBulbRecycling.com.  The Environmental Protection Agency thinks these light bulbs are so dangerous that they have issued guidance on “What to Do if a Fluorescent or Other Mercury-Containing Light Bulb Breaks.“

The EPA has also issued guidance on “What Never to Do with a Mercury Spill.”  One of their instructions is “Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.”  But what does Cindi Hinton say you should do if you have a CFL light bulb that breaks?

…gently sweep broken pieces into a jar.

Ms. Hinton should be ashamed of herself.  Let’s hope her readers don’t follow her advice.

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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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Don’t drink the water!

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.

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An environmental catastrophe in the making

LightBulbRecycling.com quantifies the alarming environmental damages from compact fluorescent light bulbs:

The mercury from one fluorescent bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking.

It only takes 1 teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 20-acre lake FOREVER.

Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste.

If you put your used compact fluorescent light bulbs in your trash, you will make this terrible environmental problem even worse.  Depending on where you live, you may also be breaking the law.

You can buy a Compact Fluorescent Bulb Recycling Kit for $107.95 at LightBulbRecycling.com.  Or you can put your used bulb in a Ziploc bag, put the bag in a small box, and send it to Washington.  They’re the experts.  They’ll know what to do.

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