Monday, September 04, 2006

CFL s and the mercury risk

A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also known as a compact fluorescent light bulb or an energy saving lightbulb, is a type of fluorescent lamp that screws into a regular light bulb socket or plugs into a small lighting fixture.

In comparison to incandescent light bulbs, CFLs have a longer rated life and use less electricity. In fact, CFLs save enough money in electricity costs to make up for their higher initial price within about 500 hours of use.
Source Wikipedia.

The only catch is that CFLs have mercury in them . As long as the bulb doesn't break and is recycled after use , all is well . But what happens if the bulb breaks and/or is not recycled and is thrown into the garbage on it's way to the landfill ? Mercury as we know is dangerous when it finds way into the waterways and is converted to it's methylated form . This is taken up by small fish which are eaten by progressively largeer fish , gradually concentrating the mercury . In it's concentrated form mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin . So I was a bit skeptical about CFLs until I came across this. . The highlights of this article are

  • The mercury in a CFL is no threat to the environment unless the glass is broken. For a basis of comparison, there are about one to three grams of mercury in your average home thermometer. It would take between 250 to 1000 CFLs to equal that same amount.

  • The highest source of mercury in our air comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal. A CFL uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb and lasts up to 10 times longer. A power plant will emit 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time

So all in all CFL seem to be safer to use , much better if we have a mechanism to recycle the CFLs .


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