||Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
Responsible for Less Mercury than Incandescent Bulbs
The use of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to replace incandescent bulbs is recommended by the US EPA because they ironically prevent mercury from entering our air. While CFLs contain a small amount of mercury as an essential ingredient, the largest source of mercury emissions in the US comes from coal-fired power plants to produce electricity.
Here’s the reasoning: a CFL uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb and lasts six to ten times longer. Over five years, a power plant will emit 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb, compared to only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time. Combined with the 4.0mg of mercury contained in the CFL itself, lighting using incandescent bulbs is responsible for emitting a third more mercury into the environment.
In fact, according to a recent report by the Earth Policy Institute, a worldwide shift to CFLs would permit the closing of more than 270 coal-fired power plants. Switching to CFLs in the US alone could save the energy output of 80 plants.
QUICK FACTS: Relative Household Mercury Amounts
4-foot fluorescent lamp--8mg
Automotive mercury switch--800mg
Why Use Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes?
Fluorescent lamps and tubes are an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent lamps:
• Three to four times more energy-efficient.
• Cost less to use.
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from reduced energy production.
• Last up to ten times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs.
What to Look For When Buying Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes
• Energy efficiency, lumens per watt.
• Long lamp life - minimum of 20,000 hours rated life. (Extend lamp life and conserve energy by turning lights off when not in use.)
• Lowest mercury content (some brands of low mercury fluorescent tubes are identified by the green-colored metal end caps).
• Manufacturers or vendors that promote or assist with recycling.
How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
New Mexico Department of Health recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines. Go to:
Proper Disposal of CFLs and Fluorescent Tubes
The NMED Solid Waste Bureau encourages recycling of burned out CFLs and tubes, if available (see links above). However, if recycling is not an option in your area, CFLs from a household are OK to put out with the trash. First, seal the CFL in a plastic bag. Only large businesses, institutions and industry users of fluorescent lamps are required to recycle.
(Sources: US EPA; California Integrated Waste Management Board; National Electric Manufacturers Assn.; National Geographic News; Merryweather, Scott. “How Much Mercury?” Waste News. April 2, 2007, p. 14.)