Recycling options lag the compact fluorescent push

There are 14 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from May 18, 2008, titled Recycling options lag the compact fluorescent push. In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

It's a message being drummed into the heads of homeowners everywhere: Swap out those incandescent lights with longer-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs and cut your electric use.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Tribune.

Jamison

Chicago, IL

#1 May 18, 2008
I converted to the fluorescent bulbs, NOW I'M THROWING ALL OF THEM OUT. My kids knocked over a lamp, breaking the bulb, so I consulted the web for instructions about what to do. This is it:(1) Get everyone, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN, out of the room; (2) Close the room door (fortunately this was a small bedroom); (3) Turn off any heat vents and cold air-returns to keep the mercury-poisoned air from circulating into the rest of the house; (4) Open windows to air out the room; (5) Don thick rubber gloves to pick up the broken glass; (6) Carefully wash the area thoroughly where the bulb broke with soap and water, using disposable paper towel; (7) If in carpet, DO NOT use a vacuum cleaner because even the best vacuums spew exhaust into the air; (8) Note there are no instructions of how to get broken glass out of a carpet!!!; (9) Be careful not to breathe the air in the room while doing all of this, as incredible as that sounds; (10) Keep the room empty of people (except you, of course) for at least 15 minutes while fully airing it out. Now, as the article notes, you have the problem of disposing of the broken glass, the poisoned paper towels and water. No mention of what you do with the mercury poisoned carpet.
For a full day afterward, I developed a low level cough, which the web warns is a sign of mercury poisoning. Maybe psychosomatic, but who knows. Once again, we have government and environmentalists going overboard before having all the facts, the same as with cancer-agent MTBE in gasoline. What next? Land fills that will be mercury poisoned from these bulbs and then billions to clean them up? And where will that mercury-poisoned debris go? Since there is no disposal process for mercury bulbs now, I plead the fifth amendment for what I did. But now, I have 10 mercury bulbs that I've replaced with incandescent and I haven't a clue how to dispose of them. What a travesty!
Brian

Northbrook, IL

#2 May 18, 2008
Thanks for the information. I was thinking of changing over. This now solidifies my decision not to change my light bulbs.
hungrydog

United States

#3 May 18, 2008
Let me tell you about my experience. I have a kitchen light fixture built into a high ceiling. When the light bulb in the fixture burns out, I have difficulty changing it. The last time the light bulb burned out in it, I decided to buy one of these high efficiency bulbs that is guaranteed to last for like ten years. I figured I would never have to change the light bulb again.

I don't remember for sure how much I paid for one of these bulbs. I believe it was about ten dollars at Home Depot for a bulb that was supposed to be the energy equivalent of 150 watts. The label guaranteed it to last for ten years.

I put the bulb in the fixture last September or October. It burned out two days ago!!!!

I feel like I was conned. I wouldn't recommend that anyone waste their money on these bulbs.
jessica

Arlington Heights, IL

#4 May 18, 2008
Hungrydog ... if it's GUARANTEED to last 10 years (your word) why not contact the manufacturer or return it to the store?
Russell

Albuquerque, NM

#5 May 18, 2008
The dangers of a broken compact fluorescent light are greatly exaggerated. If you read the instructions for ANY electrical device, you can be left with the impression that it is too dangerous to use. In fact, according to caveats in instruction manuals, almost everything we buy is too dangerous to use. It's a wonder that any of us are still living.

I'm using mostly compact fluorescent lights, but there are some incandescent lights that I will not replace. It makes no sense to use them in closets or other places where they are only briefly. In fact, according to what I have read, every time a compact fluorescent light is turned on, its life is shortened by about one hour. Thus, they should be used only in places where they are not frequently turned on and off and where they are used for several hours a day.
keith

Milwaukee, WI

#6 May 18, 2008
Why not the stores that sell them have A disposal bin at each store ?
Cheryl

Evanston, IL

#7 May 18, 2008
I agree with Keith. If we can't throw them into a regular recycle bin, there should be convenient places for us to dispose of them.
Brookfield

Roselle, IL

#8 May 18, 2008
Cheryl wrote:
I agree with Keith. If we can't throw them into a regular recycle bin, there should be convenient places for us to dispose of them.
So true. Without it - a few years down the road, the next big environmental issue will be the mercury problem that we could have prevented by providing recycling options now.
hungrydog

United States

#9 May 18, 2008
Jessica - I didn't keep the sales receipt or the packaging. After all, it's only a light bulb. I never expected the bulb to burn out after just a few months and purchasing the bulb was a small matter. Although I keep the receipts for big things, like a television or a refrigerator, if I kept the sales receipt and the packaging for everything I bought, well...you get the picture. My point was not about the guarantee. My point was that based on my experience the light bulbs do not perform as advertised.
Dirtch

Bloomington, IN

#10 May 18, 2008
"But now, I have 10 mercury bulbs that I've replaced with incandescent and I haven't a clue how to dispose of them."
Just thrown them in the trash and be done with it.
Jesus

Lake Zurich, IL

#11 May 18, 2008
I suggest we mail them to fat assed Oprah or POS Al Gore.
A Recent Michigan Refugee

Chicago, IL

#12 May 18, 2008
I did know this & have resisted the CFLBEs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Elites) attempts to shove yet another ill-thought out idea onto us by attempting to shame the public into action.

IF recycling options become available, great.. and I'll consider switching. Otherwise, stop with the socialism IKEA, Rejuvenation, Al "ManBearPig" Gore, et al.
Russell

Albuquerque, NM

#13 May 19, 2008
This concern about mercury in compact fluorescent lights is greatly exaggerated. In fact, it is irrational.

Although there should be convenient provision for disposing of them properly, the amount of mercury in each light is so small that if a light is damaged, there really is no cause for concern. Think about it.

Until very recently, most dental fillings contained considerable mercury. Although they were called silver amalgam fillings, they contained more mercury than silver. Some insurance companies would pay for those fillings, but not other types of fillings since other types cost more. There are probably at least 100 million Americans with silver amalgam fillings, including me, and we are still very healthy.

Fluorescent lights have always contained mercury. The older four-foot fluorescent tubes contained many times as much mercury as the modern compact fluorescent lights, and there was no special provision for disposing of them. Mercury compounds were often used in high school chemistry classes and there was no special provision to limit mercury exposure.

Coal-burning power plants emit mercury because coal contains some mercury. Using compact fluorescent lights actually REDUCES the amount of mercury in our environment since the amount of mercury in the lights is far less than the additional amount of mercury that coal-burning power plants would emit if we used incandescent light bulbs.

Of course we should work to limit mercury exposure since mercury is toxic, but there should be a reasonable balance. There is no reason for panic!!

Probably eventually fluorescent lights sill be replaced by LED lights and the problem will go away. LED lights are about twice as efficient as fluorescent lights and last many times longer. However, they are now so expensive that they cannot be economically justified. But it is likely that as methods of prodution improve, the cost of LED lights will drop to the point that fluorescent lights will no longer be used.
andrew langham

UK

#15 Sep 4, 2009
new light bulbs are reasonably safe hardly any mercury in them that could make you ill at all; note long florescent tubes did have a harmful amount but nothing much to seriously harm you; new bulbs are underway using aluminium gas within a series of vacuum tubes note aluminium gas boils at low temperature in a vacuum and conducts electricity even better than mercury and is much safer. radio emissions are not harmful in either andrewlangham@yahoo.co.uk

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