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.
old and crotchety!! :)