LED's Vs. Mercury Based Florescent Bulbs
As the debate regarding the possible ban of incandescent lighting vs CFL's continue consumers no doubt are familiarizing themselves with the concerns regarding mercury contained in CFL's and the affects of mercury to the environment. This year manufacturers of CFL's are voluntarily reducing the amount of mercury in CFL's to 5 mg due to consumer concerns regarding the environment.
(CFL's, not to be confused with Hologens! Hologens contain no mercury!)
Some claim that CFL's actually reduce the mercury to the environment when compared to incandescent lamp operating times, and fossil fuels at power plants. That same argument, however, is nonexistant when compared with LED's, which contain no mercury, and whose operating times are similar and sometimes greatly reduced when compared to the CFL's.
Some of the past issues with LED's have been solved with new technologies including omni directional lighting, and warm white LED's. These will soon be more readily available on the market, and will hopefully advance the more widespread use of LED's. LED consumer pricing is expected to drop within the next year, which will make LED lighting a viable alternative.
Currently, the debate between incandescent and compact florescent lighting forces consumers to choose between environmental concerns and energy efficiency. The more broad and welcoming consumer solution might be the inclusion of other types of efficient lighting, leading to greater consumer education, awareness and choice.
In a perfect world we could rely on CFL's to satisfy our lighting needs if it weren't for some basic problems relating to inclusion of mercury in bulbs. Proponents of the ban of incandescent lighting take for granted basic concerns relating to proper disposal of CFL's. The affects on the environment, limited consumer choices, improper consumer education and lack of convenient and proper recycling facilities are also relevent concerns.
What happens when a bulb breaks? Have the nation's consumers been properly advised in proper cleaning or how to recyle these bulbs? How reasonable is it to expect consumers who did not consciously choose CFL's, and who may have very little knowledge regarding proper disposal, to seek out socially responsible means of disposing of CFL's?
According to an NPR article, (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7431198
) Wendy Reed, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star program says the United States does not currently offer the national infrastructure for the proper recycling of CFL's .
Pete Keller, who works for Ecolights Northwest, in the same article states: "I think most people do want to recycle, but if it's not made easy, it doesn't happen. And they're small enough to fit in a trash can. So by nature, I think most people are not recyclers. So if it's small enough to fit in a trash can, that's where it ends up."
Also take a look at the following facts regarding the affects of mercury to the environment before deciding if the push toward CFL's is in consumer best interests. These facts are essential in the education toward recycling CFL's. http://www.lightbulbrecycling.com
/ One teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake forever.
The EPA reports that 187 incinerators nationwide emit approximately 70,000 pounds of mercury into the environment each year.
Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in US landfills amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste.
In America, one-in-six children born every year have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities, motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss.
The Mercury from one fluorescent bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking.
100 four-foot long fluorescent lamps contain about 4 grams of mercury. It only takes 1 teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 20-acre lake FOREVER.
In 1992, mercury-containing lamps were added to the United States' Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of hazardous substances. (The EPA's regulatory threshold of 2 mg./liter is usually exceeded by mercury-containing lamps).
Mercury was number three on the 1997 list of hazardous substances as outlined by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the EPA.
Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 187 incinerators nationwide emit approximately 70,000 total pounds of mercury into the environment each year.
In the states of California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, it is unlawful for anyone to dispose of fluorescent bulbs as universal waste.