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'Green' Light Bulbs Pack Toxic Ingredient

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Kangaroo, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    Yep that green light bulb suppose to be all environmentally friendly is actually still harmful on the environment.

    Buy the way if one breaks at your house make sure to use rubber gloves or something and throw it all a away because mercury can kill or harm you bad


    Green' Light Bulbs Pack Toxic Ingredient

    By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

    posted: 09 July 2007 08:41 am ET
    Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) come in many shapes and sizes now. They're energy efficient and save money in the long run. But they contain small amounts of mercury and few recycling programs exist to handle them.
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    Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) come in many shapes and sizes now. They're energy efficient and save money in the long run. But they contain small amounts of mercury and few recycling programs exist to handle them.

    Highly efficient fluorescent light bulbs are widely touted as environmentally friendly, but they have created a recycling headache for the EPA and local governments. More often than not, their toxic ingredients simply end up in landfills, where the chemicals can leach into soil and water and poison fish and other wildlife.

    The bulbs contain mercury and should not be tossed in the trash like regular light bulbs.

    “They’re very efficient, but once they’re used up they become a ticking toxic time bomb," said Leonard Robinson, chief deputy director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. "They need to be captured and recycled."

    The bulbs remain a good choice for the environmentally conscious, however, because the amount of mercury they contain is less than what is generated in the production of the extra electricity required to light an incandescent bulb.

    Few recycling options

    Yet while the technology to recycle the fluorescent bulbs exists and some local governments and businesses offer recycling, the programs aren’t widely available.

    “There’s not a lot of options out there for recycling them,” said Joe Dunlop, a program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also working on the problem.

    “Though they’re energy-saving, cost-saving, [they] do contain small amounts of mercury, and for that reason, [they] need a little bit more attention in their disposal,” said Joe Bergstein, a spokesman for the EPA's New York City regional office.

    “It’s kind of a patchy situation out there,” Bergstein told LiveScience. “Some counties are better budgeted to do these kinds of collections and handle these kinds of materials on a much more regular basis than others.”

    Potentially poisonous

    Mercury is key to making compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) efficient. Electricity sent through the lamp, which contains mercury vapor and an inert gas such as argon, zaps the mercury, setting off a reaction that creates light. The reaction is more efficient at converting power into light, with less residual heat than a normal incandescent bulb.

    Each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, just enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By contrast, a mercury thermometer contains 500 milligrams of mercury.

    The silvery substance can be dangerous even in small quantities, though, because it can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and it damages the central nervous system.

    Small amounts can also build up in the environment if the bulbs are thrown in the garbage and break or are incinerated. Mercury can enter the food chain and accumulate, for example, when big fish eat smaller fish that contain mercury, as is already the case with tuna and other large fish.

    Don't know, don't care

    CFLs need to be taken to a lamp recycler, where the mercury is recovered, processed and sent out to be re-used. But there is no curbside recycling program for these modern bulbs.

    Many U.S. counties offer some kind of household hazard waste disposal program, but practices vary regionally; while some have permanent facilities, others have a collection day only once a year.

    To recycle a CFL is an expensive prospect, so local governments that offer free disposal do so at their own cost. (Recycling businesses that accept the bulbs tend to charge for the service.)

    Adding to the problem is the question of how willing people are to store their used bulbs for a year and then drive to a county facility, or pay to have their bulbs properly disposed of.

    “More and more states are starting to ban throwing CFLs away, but on a whole, probably more of these are making it into the trash than are being recycled,” said Robinson, the California official. “The two reasons they’ll toss them: they either don’t know or they don’t care. If we can educate the ones who don’t know, we can pressure the ones who don’t care.”

    Diminishing returns

    Right now, only 5 to 10 percent of bulbs are being recycled in California. (If you do just throw your CFL away, the EPA recommends double-bagging it in plastic baggies to help keep the mercury from getting out.)

    “The recovery rate of these household places is low—who has time on a Saturday to drive 10, 15, 20 miles to recycle? We’re all busy people,” Robinson said. “We’re adding onto the carbon footprint to help protect the environment and it’s just diminishing returns.”

    Better accessibility may come down to more businesses getting in on the act and offering to collect used bulbs at their stores. Ikea stores have dedicated kiosks where customers can bring their used lights, regardless of where they were purchased, according to an Ikea spokesperson.

    Wal-Mart recently had a collection day at their stores in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Tulsa. Depending on the consumer response to the event, Wal-Mart may explore making CFL recycling bins a permanent fixture at their stores, said spokeswoman Tara Raddohl.

    California is encouraging retail stores and other public places to take the bulbs.

    “If recycling centers are where people work, play, shop and worship—we’d get a big collection of these materials,” Robinson said.

    As of Feb. 8, 2006, it is actually illegal for California residents to throw CFLs away.

    “We’re now engaging the California residents to not put these in the trash,” Robinson said. “If you give people a convenient, local and free option, they’ll choose it over throwing it away, at least in California.”

    CFLs still win out

    So with the potential for contamination and the currently limited ways to recycle CFLs, should we still use them? Absolutely. As stated above, even if a CFL is thrown in the trash and the mercury it contains leaks out, it still puts less mercury in the environment than a regular, incandescent bulb, according to the EPA.

    Though they don’t contain mercury, incandescent bulbs are still lit by electricity, which is often generated by coal-burning plants. Coal actually contains mercury, so when it is burned, mercury is released into the air—about 40 percent of mercury emissions come from coal-burning power plants, according to the EPA.

    The EPA has estimated that the mercury in a CFL added to the mercury emitted from the electricity used to power it is still less than the mercury emitted from powering an incandescent bulb. So they’re still the better choice, the EPA's Bergstein says.

    “Yes, you’re buying mercury, but it’s a net savings,” Dunlop said in a telephone interview.

    Because CFLs are much longer-lived than incandescent bulbs, lasting about 4 to 5 years, there is hope that more options will be available by the time the current generation of bulbs burn out, but for now, the EPA is concentrating on informing the public of the potential danger posed by the bulbs and the current recycling options.

    “I think the feeling is that if people were better informed about what is contained in [CFLs], they’d be less inclined to [throw them out],” Bergstein said.
  2. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    I have a feeling many of these so called Green Products will turn out to be BS.
  3. masomenos

    masomenos Less is more

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    At least in this case though, it's not BS...

  4. TheCount

    TheCount Pixel Pusher

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    I have been using these bulbs for some time, I've switched apartments three times and took them with me, have yet to have one even burn out, good to know I should recycle them instead of trashing them though whenever they do go.
  5. ConcordCowboy

    ConcordCowboy Mr. Buckeye

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    These bulbs are fricking Great.

    I have two lights by the street that I was replacing one or the other just about once a month for some reason...I don't know if it was the cold or what.

    I replaced them with these bulbs Two YEARS ago and they are still going.

    Now I have them all over my house.
  6. iceberg

    iceberg nothing is nothing Zone Supporter

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    nothing new to me here. i love the things and am switching all my bulbs as they go out to this format. nothing is perfect but this is a step forward. people need to quit being so concerned where ideas come from so you can look down on the who and bypass the what.
  7. CowboysFan02

    CowboysFan02 Degree or Bust

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    If I remember right Lowe's or Home Depot used to have a free drop of bin for CFL's by their return register. Don't know if it free or if they still even have it, but might be worth checking out if you have a burned out CFL.
  8. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Backwoods Sexy Staff Member

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    Just curious why we would post an article from 2007 about this topic?

    Not complaining mind you, just wondering.
  9. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    You cant convince people that think they are saving the Earth that this is all done for profit and marketing. Its great to make them aware but you arent convince them.
  10. iceberg

    iceberg nothing is nothing Zone Supporter

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    gotta agree. i like the more efficient bulbs, the twisted look is a bit odd, but hey, they last longer and are more solid. "green" is a huge marketing term right now *because* of those people. sure they're gonna milk it.

    but it's a better bulb with some extra care needed. that's all.
  11. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    The bulb design isnt bad. The care for it when it breaks is pretty outrageous but im also of like mind that its more for oversafety than it is for bad for the environment.
  12. iceberg

    iceberg nothing is nothing Zone Supporter

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    they look like a screwed up trip to the dairy queen. : )

    is the care for them really any different than any Flourcent light? now those long tubes shatter easily!
  13. Jarv

    Jarv Loud pipes saves lives. Zone Supporter

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    I've never tried, but hearing their cool from you guys is better than any article I could ever read. I'll give them a shot.
  14. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    WHen they break, yes you have to do some steps. Tho again, over reaction so they dont get sued, but look at the box on them in case one breaks. Its not easy to break them, but if one breaks its not a simple clean up job.

    yes i agree with you about the trip to DQ
  15. ShiningStar

    ShiningStar Well-Known Member

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    They actually do work better and provide better lighting, in my own words.
    If they break tho, check the box.

    Personally i sweep them up and and toss em in a plastic bag and put em in the recycling outside, but i dont know everyone elses preference or if they have kids how they go about it.
  16. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    I thought I had read somewhere that the CFLs contain no more mercury than your average shop light.
  17. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    Some of the newer ones look to be using less than the past ones

    Funny thing is I tried these bulbs and the longest one I have had is 6 months and they burn out

    I think it is my House that is the issue though
  18. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    Because it cover both sides on the issues including why even though they are using mercury it may still be a net gain.

    It was the better article on the subject so I posted that one and also provided information people should know about recycling if they can and so fourth. I just thought it was fair on both sides of the arguments.
  19. TheCount

    TheCount Pixel Pusher

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    There's two sides to the argument over CFL light bulbs? I didn't even know there was an argument. :confused:
  20. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    When things contain Mercury yes because a you have to get the stuff (it is pulled from the earth) which is not good for the environment and then 99% of the people throw it away which means landfills and chances of contaminating ground water etc

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