Health issues come to light on new energy-saving bulbs
Something new has come to light in the area of lighting. And it's put me in a pretty dark mood.
By now you've probably heard the news that Congress, in its infinite wisdom (try not to snicker) has mandated a ban on the sale of good old incandescent light bulbs by the year 2012 in favor of the new, energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. You've no doubt seen these squiggly-looking new bulbs in stores, and probably been stunned at their staggering per-bulb cost compared to cheap and effective standard bulbs.
Now I'm not about to shift gears on you and suddenly become an advocate for incandescent bulbs. I've warned you in the past about the potential dangers of these seemingly harmless everyday household items. Most of us get excessive exposure to the heavy infrared light that's generated by incandescent light bulbs, which is actually quite toxic. I believe the infrared light from these bulbs is a main cause of cataracts and can seriously weaken the immune system.
However, even as I acknowledge the dangers of incandescent bulbs, I'm not sure that I'm ready to surrender personal freedoms to keep them out of America's lamp sockets. I've warned you about when the government starts chipping away at your freedoms in the name of the public good. So while I think you should avoid incandescent bulbs if at all possible (try full-spectrum light bulbs), I'm always opposed to the idea of a government ban.
What's more, I'm not sure that these new bulbs are any better from a health perspective than incandescent bulbs. In fact, I'm here to tell you that I'm against these things, too. Now I'm sure you're thinking, "come on, doc - you can't come out against a light bulb that lasts longer and saves energy to boot?" And that would be true, I suppose if it weren't for the fact that these new miracle bulbs are poisonous.
Yes, it's true. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that when these compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) break (as light bulbs are wont to do every now and then), they spread mercury everywhere, which is extremely hazardous to the health of children and pregnant women. In fact, these things are SO hazardous that the EPA says that if these bulbs happen to break on your carpet, the safest way to clean it up may require cutting out pieces of the contaminated carpet to avoid exposure to toxins.
Just a quick reminder on the dangers of mercury: while it's a metal that occurs naturally, once it gets into your system it accumulates and does irreparable damage to your nervous system. This makes mercury especially dangerous to young children and fetuses whose central nervous system is still developing.
No problem, right? Children and moms are rarely around when things like light bulbs get shattered.
Well, it's not just the mercury that's left on the ground.According to some studies, a great deal of mercury is vaporized when the CFLs shatter - so much that sometimes even long after the bulb has been cleaned from the floor, the level of mercury vapor in the air exceeded the federal exposure guidelines by 100 times! In fact, it's so dangerous that not only must children, pets, and pregnant women be kept away from the place where these CFLs break - they need to be evacuated from the room while the room is properly ventilated.
Do bringing any of these extreme dangers into your home seem worth saving a few extra kilowatt hours every year? I certainly don't think so. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress does.
That's why they've banned the sale of incandescent bulbs everywhere in the U.S. beginning in 2012. Just imagine how many countless millions of light bulbs there are in the U.S. Imagine what percentage of these millions shatter in the home and the workplace every year. Now imagine that it's 2012, and every one of those shattering bulbs is a CFL, with all of its dangerous mercury. You're going to need patrols of men in Hazmat suits to keep up with all the mercury clean-ups. And don't forget that you'll no longer be able to just toss dead bulbs into the trash - these CFLs are mercury time bombs that must be disposed of as hazardous material.
Is this CFL thing starting to sound like a bad idea yet?
It should come as no surprise that the government hasn't thought this thing through all the way. The looming ban on incandescent bulbs is not a rational act, but a political one, driven by the legions of dolts who've bought into the lie of global warming and the need to "save the planet." As though a few million less kilowatt hours per year are suddenly going to mystically re-create the Garden of Eden here on earth. It's nonsense of the highest order - or lowest, depending on where you stand.
So, following the law of unintended consequences, as the environmentalist loonies usually do, nasty planet-killing, energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs will be banished in order to put potentially deadly mercury bombs in every home in America. But hey, chill out dude - we'll be saving energy and mercury's like, natural man.
Leave it to Congress to swallow a line of bull hockey hook, line, and sinker if they think it'll get them one more vote or some more campaign donations.
But there are more problems with CFLs than their mercury content. Because they're fluorescent, they take time to warm up. Unlike incandescent bulbs that just pop on at full wattage when you flip the light switch, CFLs start off with a dim initial light that only reaches full wattage after a couple of minutes. To say that it's frustrating is an understatement.
Like I mentioned earlier, your best bet is to go with full-spectrum lights (assuming the government lets you have them).
Personally, I think the more people wise up to the dangers and inefficiencies of these CFLs, the more likely that this pending ban on incandescent bulbs will fall by the wayside. There's plenty of time between now and January 1, 2012 for the light to go on for consumers that these CFLs are not the answer.