Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Problem with Fluorescent Bulbs

According to the EPA, "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a [compact fluorescent bulb], we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars." Fluorescent bulbs also use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Over the past two years, I have begun to replace all of the standard light bulbs in my house with fluorescent bulbs. I like to think that this simple change is as good for the planet as it is good for my wallet. There's no doubt that I'm probably saving some money over the long run by using fluorescents, even though they cost about about 10 times the amount of standard bulbs.

My problem with fluorescent bulbs is that they contain on average about 20 milligrams of mercury. That's enough mercury to contaminate 20 million acres of water. If this mercury somehow ends up in the food chain, it can cause severve damage to the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver.

None of this would matter if people using fluorescent bulbs actually recycled them, but in fact only about 25% of the 700 million florescent bulbs being sold each year are recycled by consumers. The rest go into the garbage and then into landfills, where they have the potential to wreak havoc on the environment and on human health.

My question: are fluorescent bulbs really all they are hyped-up to be? Sure they save energy, but at what ecological cost?


  1. Using compact flourescent bulbs is only the first step, but you make a very valuable point about recycling. Perhaps our state legislators can pass a law requring stores to accept used bulbs and recycle them properly.
    Te really save more energy in the home, I would recommend you place all your TV's, computers and other electronics that have a pilot light that is on all the time on a power strip that you can shut off (not keep on standby mode) by shutting the power strip off when not using the electronics hooked up to it. Bill Y.

  2. When the sun goes down artificial lighting such as fluorescent light bulbs and incandescent light bulbs is as essentially important as the sunlight to light our houses at night. Such lighting fixtures is a key part of interior design, and with a proper lighting plan, it can enhance task performance and aesthetics.


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