Many consumers in the dark about dangers of CFL bulbs

By Kirk Myers, Examiner

The is the first in a multi-part series of articles exposing the lies and misinformation behind legislation mandating the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with potentially unsafe compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Most consumers by now are aware of a federal law mandating the phased transition from incandescent light bulbs to controversial mercury-activated compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, starting this year.

According to provisions of legislation passed by congress in 2007, the 100-watt incandescent bulb was to be off the shelves this January, followed by a phase-out of the 75-watt version in January 2013 and the 60- and 40-watt versions in January 2014. But last month congress granted consumers a reprieve by including in its spending bill a measure delaying enforcement of the ban until the end of the 2012.

Mercury – a deadly neurotoxin

From the time it was first proposed, the ban has run into opposition from consumers who are understandably concerned about outfitting their home light fixtures with bulbs containing, on average, 5 milligrams of mercury, enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water. Mercury is one of the most deadly neurotoxins on the planet.

According to Wattsworks.com, “Breaking a single CFL bulb in a room can result in mercury vapor levels 300 times in excess of what the EPA has established as safe for prolonged exposure. Serious health effects are associated with mercury exposure. Unborn and young children, elderly and those with weakened health are particularly vulnerable.”

The EPA continues to downplay safety concerns, but urges consumers to follow these safety precautions if a bulb is broken:

•Open a window and ventilate the area for 15 minutes

•Avoid vacuuming the area (to prevent the spread of mercury dust)

•Use cardboard, not a broom, to sweep up the remains of the bulb

•While wearing rubber globes use a wet paper towel to wipe the area

•Seal the contents in a jar with a lid or plastic bag for disposal

“If clothing or bedding materials come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powers from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away,” the EPA recommends.

The EPA claims the amount of mercury in a single bulb is not enough to create a health hazard. But according to test data released in December 2010 by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA), mercury levels from broken CFLs were 20 times higher than regulations allow in the surrounding air for up to five hours after breakage.

The American Thinker reports: “Based on a new method to measure mercury from broken CFLs, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reports that only one-third of the mercury release occurs during the first 8 hours after breakage. During the following two-week period, 17 percent to 40 percent of the mercury is released into the air.”

In a report last March, Fox News exposed the potentially dangerous health hazards of mercury-laced CFL bulbs:

“Mercury… is a potent, developmental neurotoxin that can damage the brain, liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to mercury’s toxic effects. Even at low levels, mercury is capable of causing a number of health problems including impaired motor functioning, cognitive ability and emotional problems. Higher or prolonged exposure can result in much more serious health problems.”

Mercury Instruments, a Littleton, Colo., firm that specializes in removing mercury contamination, states the following on its Web site:

“If you break a “CFL” Compact Fluorescent light bulb and attempt to clean it up yourself, there is absolutely no way to know that you have removed the mercury unless you screen the area with a mercury vapor monitor . . . Without the proper equipment, equipment you will never be able to locate where the mercury came to rest.”

Concerned about mercury contamination, many environmental agencies have adopted strict regulations for the disposal and recycling of CFLs. In California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, it is illegal to improperly dispose of florescent bulbs in trash or landfills. Consumers face stiff fines if they violate the law.

Investigate Magazine says this about broken CFLs: “The real cost is not one broken light bulb, but how badly affected homes will be after 20 years of amateur attempts to clean up one of the deadliest neurotoxins on the planet.”

Mercury vapors – another health hazard?

Toxic mercury from broken bulbs might not be the only danger posed by CFL lamps. During tests last year at Berlin’s Ala Laboratory, scientists discovered that various carcinogenic chemicals and toxins, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene, are released when CFL are switched on.

Environmental experts in Britain have downplayed the findings, insisting that CFLs are not a danger to the public and that more studies are needed to back up the German research.

But Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the lab, claims that CFL lamps emit poisonous vapors when turned on and “should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head.”

This report comes on the heals of research by Israel’s Haifa University suggesting that the CFL’s bluer light emissions, which closely mimic daylight, might interfere with the production of the hormone melatonin, contributing to higher rates of breast cancer.

In addition, the Migraine Action Association is warning that CFLs could trigger migraine headaches, “and skin care specialists have claimed that their intense light could exacerbate a range of existing skin problems,” according to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Consumer anger

Many consumers are fuming over what they see as government meddling and are stocking up on incandescent light bulbs before the ban goes into effect. Judging from the pointed buyer comments on Amazon.com, the legislators who voted for the ban might want to update their resumes.

“You can pry my 100 watt incandescent from my cold dead hand (all apologies to Charlton Heston),” says Dukesuxheelrule. “Only a liberal green weenie would replace a perfectly safe tool of illumination with a much more expensive, lower quality, and highly hazardous product.”

Jeddy3 chimes in: “Every time the do-gooder nanny state shoves something down our throat “for our own good,” you can bet it’ll be found later that it wasn’t safer/better after all. If it were better, safer, or more economical, it wouldn’t be necessary to legislate its competition out of business.’

Another incensed buyer bashes the Green movement and defends freedom of choice:

“They [the incandescent bulbs] work well, shine bright, and – best of all – make me feel constantly proud to be screwing the eco-nazis,” said ahtimsa1970. “Screw you, Al Gore! Keep your hands off my thermostat, light bulbs and recycling bins. I worked hard for my money; I’ll spend it however I choose.”

During a recent appearance on Fox News, Marc Marano, the founder of the Web site Climate Depot, described the ban as an assault on consumer choice carried out by global warming alarmists and their allies on Capitol Hill.

“The only reason we’re talking about incandescent bulbs is because of fears of global warming. They’re trying . . . to control every aspect of our lives.”

As one critic quipped, “We know why GE dropped the ‘We bring good things to life’ slogan.”

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