A glowing story in the January issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine on the upcoming replacement of the long-used traditional incandescent light bulbs overlooked mention that compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, one type of substitute, contains toxic mercury that can pose problems, notes Grumpy Editor.
Under the headline, “Incandescents Take the Heat,” CFLs, Halogen bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are cited as replacements when new energy standards go into effect next month.
But the main concern, not touched on in the article, focuses on the replacement CFLs, produced mostly in China. They are being promoted in efforts to go more "green” and conserve energy.
A few vigilant newspaper editorial writers in recent months have alerted readers to problems with CFLs which entered the future lighting picture when Congress four years ago passed an energy bill that essentially banned the traditional incandescent light bulb that received a major thrust in 1878 from Thomas Edison’s research.
Many officials apparently remain unaware that when a CFL bulb (a small glass tube twisted into a spiral) shatters, mercury escapes as vapor that can be inhaled, and as a fine powder it can settle into carpet and other textiles.
A Scientific American posting three years ago was among the first to point out highly toxic mercury is especially harmful to the brains of both fetuses and children.
The director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazardous Waste Minimization and Management Division at that time recommended opening windows and stepping outside, then quickly ventilating the room when a CFL bulb breaks.
"Get all the people and pets out of the room for 15 minutes and let the room air out,” was the warning.
In July, U.S. House efforts to repeal use of CFLs fell short of the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage --- without a peep from the current EPA.