Afraid of the Light???

As kids many of us were afraid of the dark. These days kids are learning to be afraid of the light. CFL light bulbs to be exact.

CFLs (compact florescent light bulbs) are those spiral shaped light bulbs we see David Suzuki handing out to unsuspecting suburbanites. Environmental experts/spokespeople (like Natalie freaking Portman??) have been telling us to switch to these new bulbs because they consume less energy than traditional bulbs.

The dark side of this so called environmental saviour has been in the news recently… these light bulbs contain mercury. For those who are unaware mercury is extremely toxic. In one news story a single broken light bulb in a child’s bedroom resulted in sealing the room off from the rest of the house to protect the family from mercury poisoning while they saved up the $2000 for the clean up. I obviously can’t confirm the validity of this and to be honest the quote of $2000 sounds more like gouging than a fair price.   On the other hand the recommended clean up steps I have found online definitely leave me with some concerns about my ability to thoroughly clean up if one of these breaks in my home.

Not only does there appear to be an immediate hazard to our individual well being and that of our families (ventilate and evacuate the room before cleaning up? ventilate when vaccuming in the near future?) but there is also the matter of disposal. If these light bulbs go into the landfills they will leech mercury into the ground.  One light bulb will obviously not impact our landfill but a large number will.  I don’t know about you but I was not well educated on the care and disposal of these light bulbs. There are companies who recycle CFLs and soon a Home Depot near you will also provide a recycling depot for these bulbs.

I’m also not the most graceful person some days. In fact I broke two of the regular light bulbs at work just a couple of weeks ago. I can’t imagine the chaos (and paperwork) that would have ensued had those been CFLs.

These new light bulbs have definitely brought some issues to light. The mindset of environmental protection that has people purchasing these bulbs is definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately when stories like the one above hit the news we take two giant steps back. I don’t think our environment can handle setbacks like these.

I for one would like to hear from Mr. Suzuki on this issue. He has been a respected environmentalist for a long time and his voice on this subject could repair some of the damage. Still, I cannot see how reduced electricity consumption can out weigh the risks these bulbs may pose. Maybe I’m missing something?? What do you think?  Do you have any science to back up your opinion?  I’m not talking about internet sources anymore but cold hard facts.  And if you see David Suzuki walking down the street ask him what he thinks!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mich on April 29, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    ah crap! I broke one yesterday – and well I cleaned it up like a normal light bulb, if only I had known!!!

    interesting, i wonder how high is the mercury in the light bulb? and does it mean that when it burns out it leaches out the mercury? hmm



  2. From what I have read it appears that there is only a small amount of mercury (far less than the old fashioned mercury thermometers). I read over the clean up instructions and they seem very specific so I’m not sure how serious it is. I know I’ll be super neurotic about cleaning up if any break around here.


  3. It amazes me that stores are allowed to sell them at all but one would think they’d at least be required to make the hazards well known.


  4. It would be good if the science community would comment on this issue.
    It would be better if the media didn’t sensationalize so many things instead of reasearching the topic and giving us facts… but of course now I’m just dreaming. 🙂


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