Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mandated Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs Are Environmentally Unsafe & Unsound

I’m passing along this email warning about CFL light bulbs that can start burning and spread the fire to your home. It should be noted that the ballast in these bulbs (what triggers the light bulb when you flip the switch) contains mercury, a toxic “heavy metal”. Any broken bulb or any burning of ballast releases mercury into the environment-your home. Disposal of used CFL bulbs cannot be with regular trash disposal, but they must be recycled and processed as a “hazardous material”. To date, there is no uniform protocol established for the safe handling and disposal of CFL bulbs.

Because CFL bulbs are slightly more efficient at producing light (they produce more light and less heat per unit of electricity) a nearly worldwide environmental movement is driving lawmakers to mandate conversion of home and business lighting from incandescent bulbs to CFL bulbs. However, despite all the hype about the theoretical benefits of promoting CFL bulbs, such conversion can lead to either cost savings and environmental benefits or to increased expense and pollution, depending on the particular circumstances.

Home or business lighting with incandescent bulbs provides significantly greater contribution to heating needs than CFL lighting. In a cool climate with hydroelectric power and fossil fuel heating, exchanging incandescent lighting for CFL lighting would shift a portion of energy consumption from clean and cheaper hydroelectric power, to the increased expense and pollution associated with burning fossil fuels.

Despite these and other confounding factors, the average energy consumer is likely to experience a small decrease in electricity consumption and a lower electricity bill which may or may not be noticeable to the homeowner. In addition, the manufacturing and handling of CFL bulbs requires more energy consumption than that of incandescent bulbs. The higher cost and energy usage in manufacturing and handling associated with CFL bulbs may offset or exceed any theoretical cost/energy savings from their use. Because of the false belief that CFL bulbs are good for the environment and conservation, incandescent light bulbs have been outlawed in the U.S. and in many other Western Countries and they will soon be unavailable for purchase here or anywhere.

Unfortunately, this is another misguided effort to control the people, from those who claim to want to do the right thing for the environment and who believe religiously in Global Warming and want to stave off its man-made effects. Typically, these people neglect to calculate the collateral effects and cost of action they propose, endorse and enforce on the rest of us. In this case, the Environmental Lobby and lawmakers subject to their influence, have irresponsibly neglected the full balance of negative effects on the world.

Obvious negatives include higher prices for CFL bulbs. Some have claimed that General Electric (GE) stands to benefit greatly from the sale of their CFL bulbs, and that the outlawing of incandescent bulbs was done mainly to help GE make money. While it is clear that with Cap & Trade, the Obama administration and the Democrats are colluding to enrich GE in return for GE support (see Crony Capitalism), GE recently closed their massive incandescent light bulb manufacturing plant in Virginia adding to high regional unemployment, and China is now the largest producer of CFL bulbs for the world. Outlawing incandescent bulbs has thus added to the steady loss of American manufacturing and jobs to overseas interests.

The increased cost of CFL bulbs is not just due to markup or to increased costs associated with materials and manufacturing, but is also due to the cost of necessary, proper hazardous waste handling from the collection of materials, to manufacturing, and through disposal. Disposal of hazardous waste is often contracted for and shipped to third world countries for storage.

Other negative effects include those on the environment of spreading mercury throughout our communities with potential human exposure, causing brain and other nervous system damage, and then ending up in hazardous waste landfills poisoning the earth. CFL bulbs also expose humans to Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF), Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) energy, and low levels of UV light, which may have adverse effects on the human body. Additionally, CFL bulb light quality is inferior to that of the incandescent bulb, making all visual inspection, from that of patients by their doctors for signs of disease, to that of the subject of the visual arts and design, to that of products for defects by manufacturers, more difficult and less revealing. There are also a number of reports suggesting that CFL lighting can adversely affect health, mood, psychological well-being, and those with pain syndromes and certain skin conditions.

If you believe that the outlawing of incandescent bulbs should be repealed, please contact your government representatives and let them know your feelings on this issue. Howard M. Brandston, a lighting engineer who has done a great deal of research and referencing in regard to these issues, makes his efforts available on his website for the public. In addition, a group opposed to outlawing incandescent light bulbs, “Free Our Light”, has set up a website and Facebook page where you’ll find information about this issue and you can sign a petition and communicate with like-minded people.

Forwarded Email Warning

Below is a picture of a CFL light bulb from my bathroom. I turned it on the other day and then smelled smoke after a few minutes. Four inch flames were spewing out of the side of the ballast like a blow torch! I immediately turned off the lights. But I'm sure it would have caused a fire if I was not right there. Imagine if the kids had left the lights on as usual when they were not in the room. I took the bulb to the Fire Department to report the incident. The Fireman wasn't at all surprised and said that it was not an uncommon occurrence. Apparently, sometimes when the bulb burns out there is a chance that the ballast can start a fire. He told me that the Fire Marshall had issued reports about the dangers of these bulbs.

Upon doing some Internet research, it seems that bulbs made by “Globe” in China seem to have the lion’s share of problems. Lots of fires have been blamed on misuse of CFL bulbs, like using them in recessed lighting, pot lights, dimmers or in track lighting. Mine was installed in a normal light socket. I bought these at Wal-Mart. I will be removing all the Globe bulbs from my house. CFL bulbs are a great energy saver but make sure you buy a name brand like Sylvania, Phillips or GE and not the ones from China.


  1. I've been reading a lot of issues about CFLs and the danger it may bring. I don't know if I already need to change my bulbs at home. All of my bulbs are CFLs. My contractor who took his Electrician Online Course said that LED is much better to use.

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  9. Well I know Mercury is a heavy Mattel and that is poisonous for human, if come to contact with blood. But if CFL have mercury how come that harm people? I just wanna know, as it confused me whether I should avoid CFLs bulbs or not.

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