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The danger of CFLs

I stopped by an online magazine I like to visit called Blissfully Domestic. It's a collection of moms who write about topics they know well and that help make family life easier. Today, one contributor, Dr. Diva, writes about pending legislation in California that would require all households to eliminate incandescent light bulbs after January 1, 2012. As Dr. Diva says, "The goal is that every household would only use CFL's, which are 75% more energy efficient."

Some people would consider this a good thing. But take a look at what happens if a CFL breaks in your house:

[I]f it broke onto a hard surface (best case scenario), scoop up the mess with two pieces of cardboard, put the debris into a glass container with a metal lid. Then, using duct tape, further clean the area, and finish with paper towels or disposable rags. Put the duct tape and rags into the jar and seal it off.

Then, check to see how your state deals with such waste. California doesn't allow putting it into the normal trash; it needs to be taken to a special hazardous materials recycling center.

And yet these bulbs are perfectly safe?

Huh?

The instructions for what to do if a bulb breaks on a soft surface such as carpeting is even further detailed and disturbing. If one shatters onto materials such as clothing or bedding, they must be sealed up and disposed of according to, again, your state's particular regulation.

Maine's Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management states in their recommendations state that if a CFL is broken on carpeting, you should consider removing that section of carpeting, particularly if in an area where there will be babies, small children, or pregnant women. They aren't the only state to have such recommendations.

Think of all the light bulbs a typical family has in their home. With CFLs, changing light bulbs will become a big deal, one that kids won't be able to do because of the risk of breakage.

For years, parents have been told to steer clear of mercury thermometers for taking their kids' temperature because of the risk of mercury poisoning if the thermometer breaks, and now California state legislators are about trying to make Californians install mercury filled CFLs all over their homes by 2012?

Why do California legislators routinely go out of their way to make their citizens' lives so damn difficult. Rolling blackouts, taxes up the ying yang, driving businesses out of the state. No wonder people are leaving California all together.


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Comments (22)

So, California wants to REQ... (Below threshold)

So, California wants to REQUIRE ALL HOUSEHOLDS TO USE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS!

Why is it that we NEVER see the issue reported by the MSM in that light?

That and the light from a C... (Below threshold)
Clancy:

That and the light from a CFL SUCKS!!!!!!!!

I'll be burning incandescent until I can't buy them anymore.

Did the article mention tha... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Did the article mention that they are *all* made in China only?

I am disabled and cannot cl... (Below threshold)
Denise:

I am disabled and cannot climb to change bulbs. My sons changed out all mine to curleys and my electric bill has been cut in half. It has been almost 2 years, none have burned out, none have broken.
I don't like the idea of being forced to use them, but I LOVE them.

Something to remember is th... (Below threshold)
cirby:

Something to remember is that they're working off of a definition of "hazardous waste" that is extremely stringent. The amount of mercury in a CFL is very small (2 to 4 milligrams), and the amount that would be released is case of a break is even smaller (mercury gets bound to the walls of the tube as it it used).

As long as you're fairly thorough when you clean up a broken CFL, the extreme procedures that some agencies tout are pretty much overkill.

I think these CFLs will be ... (Below threshold)

I think these CFLs will be like the switch from paper to plastic. We were told switching from paper bags to plastic bags was going to save the environment, then we started hearing about all the landfill problems but it was too late. Same thing will happen here, the CFLs will be found to have a negative, but it will be too late to change back.

cirby, I believe the point ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

cirby, I believe the point is: If incandescents are harmless to your health but no energy efficient, and a CFL bulb is considered hazardous to health but saves energy, why would law makers go for putting citizens in danger? To save the polar bear? ww

Sorry Kim, you're WRONG on ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Sorry Kim, you're WRONG on the disposal method. You pick the pieces up, place 'em in a plastic bag from the grocery store and send it to LLOYD LEVINE,(D)in Sacramento!

Oh, and the selling point that they 'last longer' than ordinary bulbs is bullshit!

I have been replacing all m... (Below threshold)
glenn:

I have been replacing all my lightbulbs with CFLs as they burn out. I plan as well to dispose of all my CFLs in full compliance with any applicable state and federal regulations when they burn out. I really do, honest. I will under no circumstances throw them into a dumpster behind the 7-11 or put them in a fast food bag and drop them off at the mall garbage can. I won't, I won't.

Hello? Want another intere... (Below threshold)
Mycroft:

Hello? Want another interesting litte tidbit? The new CFL bulbs give off more Electromagnetic radiation than incadescent bulbs. Said radiation being one of hte listed possible causes for Lymphoma. Why do I bring that up? Well, I survived one bout with Lymphoma. 6 months of Chemo, and 11 years of doctor visits is a bit more of a cost than incadescent bulbs. I would call that hazmat too!

Oh, and btw, CFL bulbs still don't work in dimmer switches. I even tried one of the new cfls that is supposed to work in a dimmer switch - no joy. I have to maintain one incadescent bulb in that chandeler for it to work (The other 4 are CFL bulbs).

When I was a kid the issue ... (Below threshold)
Razorgirl:

When I was a kid the issue was converting to the metric system. Hello! Anybody know how many centimeters in an inch? It was a "forced choice". Now 40 years later, I'm still buying fabric and lumber by the YARD; the coin toss is still done on the 50-YARD line and the fuel for my 2-TON truck is $4.00 a GALLON.

I truely believe the govern... (Below threshold)
Matt:

I truely believe the government should butt out of what kinds of light bulbs we use. I have been slowly converting over to CFL, of my own volition. I like the advantages they provide over Incandescent lights. Less heat, less electricty use, less stress on my homes electrical system etc. One advantage, when you flip that bathroom light on first thing in the morning, they don't immediately blind you. If you don't like the light, try different brands/styles until you find a lighting you like.
I don't feel threatened by breaking one (which I have), I just cleaned it up carefully, like I do anytime I break a bulb. I did used damp paper towels to clean the tile it broke on though.

Here's an <a href="http://w... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Here's an Inorganic Mercury Spillage Cleaning Procedures. On hard surfaces you can sprinkle sulfur powder onto the contaminated area. The sulphur combines with the mercury to produce mercuric sulfide, which is comparatively harmless.

The problem with spillage on carpet is that the mercury goes through it and makes it difficult to remove, yet the mercury turns to vapor over time and that vapor is harmful. Now you would think that some liquid chemical could be used to penetrate the carpet and combine with the mercury like sulfur powder does on a hard surface.

Many landfills won't knowingly accept mercury, but you can take it to your dentist who can use it in your kid's fillings. /snarky comment off

I have two fixtures in my h... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

I have two fixtures in my house that have gone through more light bulbs than I can count over the years. At least dozens in each fixture. I replaced those two fixtures with the "curly" bulbs about a year ago and they're both still burning. However, in each of those fixtures I had 75 watt bulbs (I really needed some decent light in those areas) and when I replaced them with the same wattage of the new bulbs they proved to be significantly dimmer, so I replaced them right away with 100 watt "curly" bulbs. I don't know if I'm still saving electricity with the higher wattage, but at least I don't have to keep replacing the bulbs.

Unfortunately, if I need to dispose of hazardous waste, such as CFL bulbs or batteries, the nearest center is 30 miles away.

I've been using some CFL's ... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

I've been using some CFL's for a few years and the statement 'they last longer is BS' is correct. They cost 4-5 times as much and last maybe 5 hours longer. I have no respect for the BDS suffering younger generation anyway so will throw the burnt out/broken bulbs in the nearest trash can. Actually I live near a river that consuming fish from has been banned for years because of slight amounts of mercury in the bottom silt. On one hand mercury isn't dangerous, on the other hand it will kill you, so why worry about it. President Hussein O will turn you into a radical Islamist, no life other than a** kissing a rock somewhere, among other things, or behead you anyway.

By 2012 they probably will ... (Below threshold)
Yogurt Author Profile Page:

By 2012 they probably will have LEDs that are more efficient and sans mercury available anyhow...

2012? Uh, that is the Fe... (Below threshold)
John Anderson Author Profile Page:

2012? Uh, that is the Federal date (yep) - California is pushing 2010.

So a certain Fire Department may find itself in trouble -
*Over 100 Years of Light*
This was even on one episode of MythBusters TV show.

Oyster, those wattages are ... (Below threshold)
John Anderson Author Profile Page:

Oyster, those wattages are equivalent wattages, that is, "this CFL gives about the same light as a xx-Watt incandescent bulb." The wattage used is much less. As to how long before that difference and the {hopefully] longer life will take to make up for the price it varies - in terms of years - from place to place.

CFLs are great. Saves me lo... (Below threshold)
Roy:

CFLs are great. Saves me lots of money. Regular bulbs' color already sucks, so it only can get better. I just get rid of the burnt out ones by putting them in a ziplok bag with some tuna fish and tossing them in the trash. If they break, the tuna absorbs the mercury.

Why do California ... (Below threshold)
Aog Author Profile Page:
Why do California legislators routinely go out of their way to make their citizens' lives so damn difficult
Because the voters love it. All those politicians are still in office little risk of removal, right? One can only presume they are giving the voters what the voters want, good and hard.
It will start with Californ... (Below threshold)
Maggie:

It will start with Californinuts, where light
bulbs will be outlawed.
Either because they're inefficient, or hazardous
to your health.
Better hope they don't condemn the LEDs!

I've had one cfl on our back porch for about 5
years now, it's the only one that has lasted
long term. The rest burn out just about the
same as incandescents.

Scrapiron, I'm not sure abo... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Scrapiron, I'm not sure about whether they last longer or not. I have "regular" light bulbs in my house that have been working for 11 years now. I don't know crap about electricity other than when I turn something on, if there's electricity there, it works. But I suspect that those two fixtures are tied together to the same breaker that may be wired incorrectly (or something). So the new light bulbs have saved me money at Home Depot from constantly buying replacements. I'm satisfied with that in itself.




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