Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mixed Reviews on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

I was sent one of those Forwards in my email In box, and it sounded typically exaggerated. It was about the alleged dangers of energy-saving Compact Fluorescent light bulbs and the fact that they all contain mercury. The email supposedly quoted a woman who broke one of her CFL bulbs and was told by her local EPA that it would take a team to remove the contamination, to the tune of $2000.

I didn't pay much attention to the email at first because it seemed sensationalized.

I did want to look into the matter a bit more as time allowed...

First, it made me feel a bit slow that I never knew fluorescent bulbs of any description contain mercury.

Secondly, I became aware that there is a mass-marketing of these CFLs, and they are touted as a real green energy-saver for the average household. We have them ourselves, all throughout our house.

Thirdly, I noted the widespread, but largely unaddressed, concern about disposal of the bulbs once they've burned out. Mercury is a contaminant even in very small amounts, and once it hits groundwater, you're talking the most serious of birth defects or sterility issues, not to mention many other serious ailments.

Fourthly, I noticed the preponderance of "patting down the concerned"...something I'm beginning to become less and less happy about. I see this being done by the mainstream in so many other crucial health areas, I am now suspicious whenever the rhetoric runs to phrases such as "when handled correctly" or "health concerns are exaggerated" and so on. In any normal household, lightbulbs get broken, and many times by children or in areas that would be virtually impossible to guarantee spotless cleanup. It's not like these are stadium lights, up and out of the way of the normal Joe. Any normal boy with an overactive Nerf football could overturn a lamp, break the bulb, and try to hide the evidence...and that's just one such situation.

Fifthly, who are the "experts" who "assure" us that NO mercury can be leached, vaporized, or in any other way become a particle that pollutes our home if these bulbs are used regularly...or as in our household, used exclusively? I trust faceless experts and their statistics less and less these days. (If I didnt, I'd think Monsanto is the answer to world hunger and is staffed with boy scouts...)

If it sounds like I'm a skeptic, I want to be a healthy skeptic rather than a reactionary. But two things bother me about this. First, make a product that doesnt try to solve a problem by creating a solution with newer and graver problems. Mercury contamination is no laughing matter. Dont give me the hooey about one coal plant causes more mercury pollution than X number of CFBs. Don't sell me a problem by stating that it's a better problem than the old problem.

I happen to know those bulbs, likely many of them broken, are in our landfills right now.

And I'm frankly ticked off. I'm thinking of whether or not I've ever handled a broken CF bulb myself. I didn't know better...I wasn't the person buying them at the store and reading the label before installing. In fact, I rather hated them...I don't like fluorescent light at all anyway. The reason we changed was to be frugal and to save money.

I'm becoming more jaded about our "needs" for "improved" things. I'm the one who's perfectly happy with a candle, anyway. Or just a light bulb, and keeping all the other lights turned off. Or, radically...how about just letting it be light when the sun shines and dark when it goes down?

(lol...ok, you knew I was on the edge!) ;-)

Am I just getting old and crotchety?? I'm annoyed with just one more "dire warning" spam letter in my email, and even more annoyed to find that I'm unsettled after looking into it a bit more. The general consensus seems to be "oh, those CFLs are our best option, even though it comes with some conditions and probable exceptions."

I'm tired of one more product being so widely accepted and finding out it has to be disposed of in "a special way"...creating a demand for more mercury to be used in production but no real responsibility in keeping it from junking up our surroundings/environment/groundwater/soil/air with just one more "necessary" toxic contaminant.

It's official. I'm becoming one of those crotchety old kooks that just won't shut up...

Grass, water, sky, soil, babies with the correct number of limbs and digits. Those are the things I'm feeling awfully protective of these days.

I'm considering ditching the CF bulbs completely. After I get fully suited up in my Hazmat suit, that is, and find some federally-approved disposal facility that will take them (she says, tongue-in-cheek....sort of...)

I'm about technologied out. I can tell I'm about at the end of it. That's where my grandparents were right about the time of the invention of VCRs...they'd had enough of Progress. Mine happened right about the Ipod and the MP3. I'm a throwback. I get more and more stubborn the more and more innovations are marketed as necessities.

Hmmmm.....

told ya...

old and crotchety!! :)

14 comments:

Nola said...

I, for one, thought mercury was so dangerous, it wasn't used around the house anymore. I remember as a kid, the hoopla about mercury,and how bad it was if you dropped and broke a thermometer and the mercury escaped! So, I just naturally figured it wasn't being marketed in products we bring into our homes anymore. Just makes me sit and wonder how much more ridiculous things will become. I just don't know what to believe anymore. I guess I don't know the difference of when I "informed" and "misinformed". BTW, don't worry, I am old and crotchety, and I find I rather enjoy it! haha

Paulette said...

The timing of this post is eerie...I just read this today - http://www.energystar.gov/
ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/
Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf

We use the bulbs throughout our house too, but like you, I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it, at least until they figure this out.

Yikes.

Robbyn said...

Nola, I wonder how many other folks besides us have no clue there's mercury in them...

Paulette, I did see one similar to that one. I'm still shaken because I'm positive my husband and I have handled broken bulbs before...just can't remember if they were fluorescents or not...does. not. make. me. happy. toworryaboutthis....

Brenda Kula said...

I haven't admitted it to a soul, but I have refused to buy those. I am getting old and crotchety, more so by the hour. But I have resisted these, and now I'm glad I did. I saw everyone else doing the "environmentally correct thing" with these lights. I certified my small yard as a damned wildlife habitat, for heaven's sake. And kind of felt like a hypocrit because of my regular old lightbulbs. But I'd heard this too recently. Now my mind rests easier. And I realize: don't be too quick to carry on due to the rhetoric...
Brenda

Donna said...

I received an email some time ago telling about the dangers. As I always do, I went to Snopes.com and found out there was quite a bit of truth to the story. Some countries have laws that will do away with traditional incandescent lights by 2010 and 2012.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Nita said...

We don't use them, being old and skeptical ourselves, another issue besides the disposal, is that Flourescent lights can be he** for migraine sufferers. (My hubby)

We are stocking up on incandescent bulbs, they will no longer be available in 2009 (?) not sure of the year.

I always wonder about these things I'm being told to do, humans are being "farmed" at an alarming rate, and they don't even realize it. Here in the public schools, they now have lockdowns, for any minor police involved whatever. It reminds me of when we wean our calves. Little ones in the corral, bleating and Big ones outside frantic. But the big farmer who knows better is in control. And, now all the freeways here have gates on the on and off ramps too, supposedely for weather related closures. However, my DH now works for a little city, and the word is those gates and barriers are for keeping people in town during disasters, etc. Most people just view them as something "those nice government people are doing for us..." yikes, this really struck a nerve, on the bulbs, I don't thing most people will dispose of them correctly (if there really is such a thing) Most will just end up broken and in the landfills.

Robbyn said...

Brenda..yes, it's one thing if we have the option of the newfangled things, but it's another if we don't. I'm tired of it. I'm ready to go back to oil lamps or just daylight and dark.

Donna, looks like they'll be phased out here, too...eek!

Nita, oh man you hit on one of our pet subjects...the sort of one most folks look at us funny if we talk about too long (I can see the placard "apocalyptic kook" being mentally penned as the wheels turn...lol!) Did you know the military already DOES have disaster plans in place, and has for a very long time, to cordon off cities and prevent any coming in or going out of them if there is a perceived or declared emergency...and I don't trust anyone's definition of emergency. It could even be a "manufactured" emergency, such as a scare they have to quarantine off the city for. Knowing that they have actual gates on exit ramps does NOT serve to make me feel secure. It makes me feel manipulated and like this is more and more a police state. I even worry that farmers in outlying areas would have their crops, etc, seized "for the greater good" with no say-so for defending it without being treated as a renegade if that were to happen.

Oy, I'm starting to sound totally Ruby Ridge...

Nita said...

Ruby Ridge away Robbyn, our closest neighbor who is a cop, told us we would have to provide food for all of them (them being the 10 slacker households next to us)if "something happened". He always shows up here armed,and he told us to shoot his dogs (in front of his little kids) if they kept chasing our livestock. Nice guy! Just who I want going through my pantry. He's got bigger fish to fry now, his little kids are now teenagers and he and his wife decided to put them on birth control, because well you know everybody is doing it... .
I hope he's in town when they shut off the freeway! ;)

Carolyn said...

I was wondering about that too. Great Post. Very Informative.

Robbyn said...

LOL, Nita!! Maybe what we should be doing is finding crops no lazy neighbors (or most people) would think of eating or recognize as edible...like sunchokes or clover or nettles??? heh heh

Nita said...

Those were my thoughts exactly, I don't think most people are ready for the diet we eat. It might be funny though to let him raid my pantry...

Gina said...

Not only the potential for pollution, but I also had a problem with removing perfectly good lightbulbs in order "to upgrade". We practice turning lights off and such and it takes us years to use up even the old lightbulbs.

Nita, that is scary about the gates on the exits. Makes me want to get a horse & mule in case we need to hightail it out of here someday.

Anonymous said...

Here is a congressional youtube on the subject (hope it comes through). It is humorously scary. I like regular lightbulbs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZalyKzXnlo

Rita.

Killi said...

They're phasing out incandescent bulbs here, by the end of the year, I think, though it's all gone quiet now on that front. My bathroom CFL has died, even though it's only been in place for 2 years ~ aren't they meant to last years & years? LED is the way we've been told that lights are going ~ any thoughts on those? I know nothing about them at all.

I've been spending time with my friend Jamie & he rarely uses electric light. I actually love being in his dark house of an evening, eating cheese & tomato toasties by firelight.

I have paraffin lamps: anyone know if I could use cheap veggie oil to power them? Paraffin is rare & expensive here & I love my lamps.