The Truth About Compact Fluorescent Lights Part Three

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Mercury in CFLs poison workers, consumers and their environments.


More than 60,000 children are born each year in the United States with neurodevelopment impairments caused by exposure in the womb to methylmercury compounds, according to new estimates by an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Science’s Year 2000.

Each compact fluorescent lamp contains about 5 milligrams of elemental mercury as well as other poisonous gases. When mercury enters water, biological processes change the chemical form to methylmercury, which is the organic, more toxic form found in fish. Methylmercury bioaccumulates through the food chain and once in the body can affect the fetal and adult nervous systems.


Don’t count on methylmercury staying down in landfills or staying in one place, as it easily gets transported through the water table. Beware if you break a CFL. Each broken lamp is a toxic spill and much care should be taken cleaning them up. Throwing hundreds of millions of them into landfills will contaminate the soil, the water table and eventually the air.

The manufacturing of CFLs also exposes workers to toxic levels of mercury. They are made mostly in China with virtually no health, safety, or environmental protection regulations. Ironically, most of the electricity used to manufacture CFLs comes from very dirty coal fired generators. As things stand today, mercury exposure to workers, to electricians and installers, to consumers, to water, and to the living environment, goes almost unchecked.

How many Resources and Pollutants does it take to make a light bulb?
“More than it should. The reality is, even energy-efficient products don’t always come from energy-efficient beginnings. Consider for a second what goes into producing, powering and transporting products around the world like…energy efficient light bulbs. Until they’re manufactured in a carbon-neutral way, transported on low-emission vehicles and powered in our homes by cleaner energy—green products will never be as green as they can be.” World Wild Life Fund, MacLean’s Jan 19/09.

Most mainstream environmentalists ignore these facts and instead claim that CFLs have less mercury than what would have been launched into the environment via a smoke stack to create the additional electricity for regular light bulbs. This is not true. If all electricity was generated by dirty burning coal fired plants this might be possible but this is really an irrelevant point when you consider coal fired power plants could operate with 80% less mercury emissions. The problem is that there are no regulations to force the industry to cleanup its act. In any event, it does not apply to BC where 85 % of our electrical power comes from hydroelectric dams. In Canada, 58% of electrical generation is from hydro and 19% from coal.

What this all adds up to is CFLs are toxic technology. Let’s not forget the mercury contamination, the ultraviolet radiation, the radio frequency radiation and the dirty power a compact fluorescent creates when in use. Multiply that by one billion CFL’s thrown into landfills worldwide and we have a perfect recipe for a global environmental catastrophe

CFLs emit harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation

CFLs emit electromagnetic radiation, a type of energy that can make us very sick. Many people have reported skin rashes and irritation due to UV Radiation. Radio frequency radiation is even more of a concern. The effects of exposure to radio frequency radiation, as well as to high voltage spikes and transients, all known to cause illness, are virtually ignored by environmental groups and green building consultants.
There has been a ‘rash’ of health problems associated with exposure to electromagnetic radiation such as that emitted by CFLs. In Sweden, according to polls, up to 290,000 people or more than 3% of the population have reported suffering symptoms of EHS when exposed to electromagnetic radiation. Symptoms range from joint stiffness, chronic fatigue, headaches, tinnitus, respiratory, gastric, skin, sleep and memory problems, depressive tendencies, to Alzheimer’s disease and all classes of cancer.

Form cradle to grave, CFLs pose a danger to people’s health and well being, as well as adding even more toxicity to our beleaguered earth. They do not reduce our carbon footprint, and may even increase it in some situations. To make matters even worse they emit harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation.