Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mercury in energy-saving bulbs worries scientists

There's a growing awareness of the compact fluorescent lights. That's a good thing because they're generally a good thing, they last longer than incandescent bulbs and use less electricity to produce the same amount of light. BUT, if you're observant you'll see a notice on the package saying they contain Mercury.

Mercury poisoning has played a role in many environmental toxin disasters. There was a fishing village in Japan where mercury was dumped into the ocean near their fishing grounds and the villagers became desperately sick. And mercury poisoning is also known as Mad Hatters Syndrome, because in old England hatmakers used mercury for something or other and ended up injesting lots of mercury and going mad as a result.

With over 150 million CFL bulbs sold every year it's an interesting problem. Yes the lights last longer than incandescent bulbs, but eventually they'll break or wear out and be tossed. So what happens to the mercury afterward? And I think we shouldn't stop at the mercury, because the CFL bulbs I've examined all have a printed circuit board on them with various electrical components, and its well known that other toxic chemicals like PCB's generally are used in the components in electrical circuits.

This is another case of solving one problem and creating several others.

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