Monday, April 30, 2007

How Much Does It Cost To Change A Lightbulb?

Remember that post from earlier this month about all the reasons why CFL's (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs) aren't a good idea? Then that "Got Mercury?" poster a few days later?

Well, now comes this gem of an article from the Financial Post entitled "The CFL mercury nightmare." It recounts the story of a woman from Maine who accidentally dropped and broke a CFL in her daughter's bedroom. Knowing that the bulb contained mercury, she called her local Home Depot who referred her to the Poison Control hotline, which referred her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which sent to her home a specialist who found six times the state safe limit (300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter) of mercury in the bedroom.

"The DEP specialist recommended that Bridges call an environmental cleanup firm, which reportedly gave her a "low-ball" estimate of US$2,000 to clean up the room. The room then was sealed off with plastic and Bridges began "gathering finances" to pay for the US$2,000 cleaning. Reportedly, her insurance company wouldn't cover the cleanup costs because mercury is a pollutant.

"Given that the replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the average U.S. household is touted as saving as much as US$180 annually in energy costs -- and assuming that Bridges doesn't break any more CFLs -- it will take her more than 11 years to recoup the cleanup costs in the form of energy savings."
Now, that would be enough to warrant mention here, but the article isn't done yet. There is another aspect worthy of mention:

The article correctly points out the irony that environmental groups tout CFLs as a partial solution to global warming with one side of their mouth, while simultaneously decrying the dangers of mercury:
"Usually, environmentalists want hazardous materials out of, not in, our homes. These are the same people who go berserk at the thought of mercury being emitted from power plants and the presence of mercury in seafood. Environmentalists have whipped up so much fear of mercury among the public that many local governments have even launched mercury thermometer exchange programs.

"As the activist group Environmental Defense urges us to buy CFLs, it defines mercury on a separate part of its Web site as a 'highly toxic heavy metal that can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in fetuses and children' and as 'one of the most poisonous forms of pollution.'

"Greenpeace also recommends CFLs while simultaneously bemoaning contamination caused by a mercury-thermometer factory in India. But where are mercury-containing CFLs made? Not in the United States, under strict environmental regulation. CFLs are made in India and China, where environmental standards are virtually non-existent.


"As each CFL contains five milligrams of mercury, at the Maine "safety" standard of 300 nanograms per cubic meter, it would take 16,667 cubic meters of soil to "safely" contain all the mercury in a single CFL. While CFL vendors and environmentalists tout the energy cost savings of CFLs, they conveniently omit the personal and societal costs of CFL disposal."
The next question I have it "What about all of the fluorescent light bulbs we already have? Are we to understand that they have all of the same draw backs?"

HT: Fark


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