Less Mercury in CFL’s – GE is working on it.

GE is working toward reducing mercury in CFL bulbsThe average Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb contains about 5 milligrams of mercury. About enough to coat the tip of your ball point pen. Not much.

Here’s the thing. With everyone from Al Gore to the local “green blogger” down the street touting the advantages of the energy-efficient CFL’s as one simple strategy in stopping (er… mitigating) global warming, the sale of CFL’s is skyrocketing.

Multiply 5 milligrams by 150 million (the number of bulbs sold last year) and that’s a lot of ball point pen tips coated with mercury – if you catch my drift.

The main concern is that many of those 150 million bulbs aren’t being properly recycled, instead ending up in landfills. Now the mercury starts to become a real problem.

Of course, the best case scenario is that everyone using CFL’s (as we all should be, by the way) will properly dispose of used bulbs.

Alas, that isn’t likely to happen. Surely nobody reading Triple Pundit is going to simply through a CFL in the trash, but there are those that will.

As reported in the Environmental News Network, GE’s goal is to cut the amount of mercury in CFL’s to only 1 milligram.

That’s a very good thing, but no excuse to not properly dispose of a CFL – any mercury in the environment is a hazard.

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

4 responses

  1. I don’t have the math on hand, but the overall mercury put into the environment over the lifetime of the bulbs is higher with incandescents because of the emissions of coal fired plants (the vast majority or power plants in the U.S. are coal fired).

  2. considering that 1mg of mercury = .000035274 ounces of mercury and 150 million CFL’s contain , by my math about 1700 pounds of mercury. And considering that coal fired power plants output of mercury is measured in thousands of tons per year wouldn’t it be more intelligent to put all that labor and money into improved scrubbing of the mercury from power plants smoke emissions. The amount or mercury CFL’s contain is popcorn when compared to a coal powerplant. Sounds like GE is just trying to make themselves look good with out really going after the big polluters.

  3. The bogus argument is that there will be a reduction in toxic mercury into the environment with CFL’s due to the energy reduction from coal plants. (1) 50% of electricity does not come from coal plants in the US and coal plants are now mandated to reduce their mercury emissions by between 70% and 90% in the next several years. (2) Places like California produce very little energy from coal plants, so CFL energy reductions will not cut much mercury there. (3) The 5mg of mercury claimed for CFL’s is largely a goal and not the current reality which can be 300% to 600% higher. (4) CFL’s are made in China with energy from mostly very dirty coal plants that emit much more mercury than US coal plants. (5) CFL’s made in China spill as much mercury into the environment as goes into the CFL’s. (6) CFL’s are delivered here on ships using bunker oil, the worst mercury producer of the fuel oils. Incandescent bulbs are still almost all made in the US. (7) There is no recycling program in place or planned that could handle the number of CFL’s proposed. And after many years even the industrial recycling programs only handle 25% of the mercury from fluorescent lights. (8) It is likely that if any major recycling program is set up, the CFL’s will be shipped back to China for reprocessing. THUS, a massive CFL program will put a massive amount of toxic mercury into the environment and very likely into our kid’s bodies. And the EPA says that a sixth of them already have too much mercury in them.

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