As many of you have probably heard, the US government (along with others) will be banning the manufacturing of incandescent light bulbs. To be honest, this won’t affect me. My family switched ages ago and we have never looked back. Not sure I even remember what it is like to have that incandescent glow everyone is all up in arms about. One argument that I keep hearing over and over again in favor of keeping incandescents is that CFL light bulbs contain mercury.
A. This is only an issue if the bulbs are broken. I personally have never broken one of these. Which is kind of surprising considering how much of a clutz I am. The EPA explains what to do if you do break one. Of course you have approx the same amount of mercury exposure when you eat a can of tuna. Yet, we have all accepted this. Strange.
B. Even if every single one of the bulbs bought were broken (AKA sent to a landfill instead of being properly recycled) we would all be exposed to less mercury than the amount that is produced by the extra electricity used to power incandescent bulbs. Explained here. For those of you that want a quick version it goes like this:
- Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions in the U.S.
- Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish.
A 13-watt, 8,000-rated-hour-life CFL will save 376 kWh over its lifetime, thus avoiding 4.3 mg of mercury. (If the bulb goes to a landfill, overall emissions savings would drop a little, to 3.9 mg.)
If you want a table laying this out concisely click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
In conclusion, it would appear that you will expose your family to less mercury by switching to CFL light bulbs and recycle them correctly. Oh, and don’t eat too much tuna. Of course I hear that a new LED light bulb is under development. Containing zero mercury, these may be the best option we have yet.