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  •  Nicely done (6+ / 0-)

    A few interesting points folks might want to know:

    Burning coal to run an incandescent puts more mercury into the environment than a broken CFL.

    The only way to be exposed to all of the mercury in a CFL is to eat it, since much remains attached to the coating on the glass.

    The tea bulbers aren't even protesting CFLs, they're protesting the new incandescent that the industry has already invented and wants to produce.

    The industry needs the new regulation in order to create a market for these new incandescents, because they're more expensive than the old incandescents, putting them on-par cost-wise with ... the more-efficient CFLs. Thus they're not competing with other incandescents, but with CFLs.

    They would rather compete on color quality than price, but they can't do that when there's a lower-priced equivalent of the old technology on the market.

    The tea bulbers have not only shot themselves in the foot (more mercury, higher energy costs), they've just pitted the coal lobby against the lighting lobby (you know, little guys, like GE and Phillips). I bet the bulb manufacturers are in a snit, right about now.

    You may be able to outrun your friend for the moment, but the grizzly named "Avarice" *always* has plenty of appetite for you both...

    by radical simplicity on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 07:09:15 AM PDT

    •  Oh, yeah, forgot one: (6+ / 0-)

      The maximum amount of mercury vapor released from a broken CFL is 17% of its total mercury content (5mg). The only way to be sure you get all of that 17% into your system is to put the bulb in a sealed container, attach some kind of mask to it that keeps you from breathing any other air, then breathe the air from the contaminated bulb for a full 8 hours - since that's how long it takes that 17% of the ~4mg of mercury to be released.  

      In the real world, if you do a really crappy job of cleaning up the bulb - breaking it on a shag carpet, then vacuuming up the dust and glass, sending as much bulb dust as possible into the air, after letting it sit for 8 hours, in a closed room - in which you've sat with the bulb, you will get about the same exposure as eating a single forkful of regular canned tuna. Though it would take most of a can of light tuna to get you there.

      ... And canned tuna is among the lowest-mercury fish options.

      You may be able to outrun your friend for the moment, but the grizzly named "Avarice" *always* has plenty of appetite for you both...

      by radical simplicity on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 07:21:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay, this information is helpful. BUT -- (2+ / 0-)

        my problem isn't just with the possibility of breathing mercury gas, or any other form of immediate harm to me personally.  My problem is producing enough CFLs for hundreds of millions of people to use -- billions, eventually -- when that mercury will then be present in the environment in some way, whether we breath it or not.  

        I know that currently florescent bulbs are supposed to be treated as toxic waste and taken to special recycling centers.  The one near me is open by appointment only, and I can't get anyone there to call me back.  I know that many florescent bulbs simply end up in the trash, and hence in the landfill, where the mercury can leach into soil and water along with all the other toxins we dump into the biosphere.  And even if they end up in a properly designated spot for disposal, is there actually anything good to be done with them?  Can the mercury be extracted and recycled? Or what can reasonably be done with it?

        As I said, I haven't really been tuned in to this issue, aside from low-level worry and annoyance.  Why aren't envirnomentalists pushing the use of more efficient incandescents instead of CFLs?  THere may be good reasons, in terms of trade-offs.  But taht certainly hasn't been clear.

        Anyway, thanks for the info on individual exposure, which of course is important too, and will let me reassure one of my relatives who's been resisting CFLs based on the very fears you're addressing.  

        •  If every single CFL ever used (0+ / 0-)

          You're getting more mercury in the air from the coal being burned to power an incandescent bulb than you would if you pulverized a CFL in a closed room with a hammer.

          The mercury can be recycled - and it is - most hardware stores collect CFLs for recycling, and all the big-box stores do. The interesting thing is:

          If the two most-used incandescents in every home in the US were replaced with CFLs (roughy 225 million bulbs), it would take as much coal-induced mercury out of the air as you would find in over 8 billion CFLs. And eliminate the need for roughly 18 coal-burning plants.

          (I'll try to remember to post all the nitty-gritty data on Saturday - I've got a friend researching this for a presentation - we were stunned when he made the calculation).

          The coal industry started a FUD campaign, and have done a great job scaring people away from cleaner tech.

          In the mean time, if you don't even want to have to try to deal with any mercury, try LEDs. And stop eating fish.

          You may be able to outrun your friend for the moment, but the grizzly named "Avarice" *always* has plenty of appetite for you both...

          by radical simplicity on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 10:33:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Again, thanks for the useful info. THe most (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radical simplicity, greengemini

            valuable part to me is that CFLs can be readily recycled.  (I haven't seen nor heard about collection boxes in hardware stores, but can seek them out.)  As I said, I'm not only concerned with breathing mercury but with it ending up in the land and water.  Especially the water.  The pollution of the ocean is tragic.  Already.  Doesn't need more mercury.  So, while the Rightwing objectors to florescents probably don't care, for me the recycling is important.

            I will certainly, in any case, shift to more efficient bulbs -- I already have some CFLs despite my uneasiness up to this point.  I'll probably end up combining those with some of the long-lasting incandescents, but I should check out LEDs too.

            I don't eat fish as freely as I used to, certainly.  That's a big loss to me, and will increasingly be a loss to humanity.  The mercury already found in fish is no argument against worrying about the presence of mercury in a widespread new product, CFLs.  It's all the more reason to worry about it.  Isn't that obvious?

            Appreciative as I am of your specific knowledge, I'd have been even happier if you didn't seem dismissive of my concern about mercury in the billions of CFLs that will be produced over time.  Small amounts multiplied by billions matter.  This is a nitpick, as this thread has been very useful to me, but it's something to keep in mind when talking to questioners who are environmentally concerned and are not wingnuts.  



            •  Sorry if it sounded like dissmissiveness (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MGK, Fiona West

              It's not intended to be.

              The point I tried to make via too many words:

              The small amount of mercury in a bulb displaces a very large amount of mercury from the electrical generation plant, starting the moment it's first used.

              Power plant mercury is the primary mercury source for our waterways, our air, and our soil.

              Every CFL that replaces an incandescent reduces the overall mercury load in our environment significantly - even if every single CFL were broken.

              You'd have to intentionally break 35 CFLs in a way that would release all of the mercury, and dispose of that waste improperly in order to reach the amount of mercury released as a result of using a single incandescent.

              If you think of how many light bulbs you've broken in your life thus far, you get an idea how unlikely it is that you'll break even a small handful in your lifetime.

              LEDs further reduce the mercury by not having any, and by using even less energy than CFLs, thus even further reducing power plant emissions.

              Since climate disruption promises to be a tsunami of horror relative to ordinary pollution, it's imperative that we start  - immediately - to reduce energy use as much as possible, including switching all of our light bulbs to the least energy wasting bulbs we can afford (and repeating the process on a regular basis - as new technologies become available and as prices drop).

              I've been fighting CFL FUD-mongers on other sites for months (they've been targeting environmental press sites), and am seriously worried about the damage they've already done with their scare tactics. How much mercury would have been kept out of the air already if people had switched a year ago?

              Think of all the people who, like you, have heard about the dangers of mercury in CFLs, but not about the amount of mercury they prevent from polluting our homes, air, water, and soil. Multiply the months you've been avoiding buying more by the amount of mercury produced by every incandescent you haven't replaced. And worse, look at the tons of CO2 that have been pumped into the atmosphere by the energy wasted by those un-changed bulbs.

              It's really, really important that we start immediately. The FUD is designed to keep coal profits up - not to keep anyone safe.

              Once the bear eats your friend, there's no one left to outrun. And it'll still be hungry.

              by radical simplicity on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 08:42:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, that 35 to 1 ratio is pretty definitive. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                radical simplicity

                And while I knew that mercury is one of many pollutants produced by burning coal, I didn't realize that:

                Power plant mercury is the primary mercury source for our waterways, our air, and our soil.

                So I'm convinced, and will henceforth serve the cause of the [energy efficient] light.  CFLs, LEDs, and even long-lasting incandescents if needed.  (Who'd have thought I'd ever find myself siding with GE?)

                Out of curiosity, what are some of the environmental press sites where you've been battling FUD-mongers?

                Thanks for your continuing efforts.

                •  There are several (0+ / 0-)

                  Grist, Treehugger, some local ones.

                  I use different names in different places - after a real life stalker became an online stalker, I had to cease having an online trail identified with the real me, but I'm out there.

                  I hope you'll get great service from your new lights - you'll definitely save money, and help future generations, too. :-)

                  Be sure to check out the yellow-toned LEDs you can now find in some of the big-box hardware stores. They look odd in the store, but they give off a very pleasant soft-white light when in use.

                  If you only find the blue-ish ones, there's even a solution for that. We have some older LED "library" lights from Ikea. They were waaaaay too blue, so I colored the decorative plastic lens with yellow and orange highlighters. Problem solved! You can do the same with Regular LED bulbs - jut be sure you're coloring the decorative cover (the outer shell that makes it look like a regular bulb), and not the actual LEDs (the little dots that light up).

                  Once the bear eats your friend, there's no one left to outrun. And it'll still be hungry.

                  by radical simplicity on Thu Jul 21, 2011 at 05:59:44 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  Tuna (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radical simplicity

        Could you show a website supporting the statement about doing all that incorrect cleaning and only being exposed to the amount of mercury in tuna?  Thanks.

        Never argue with idiots. They'll just drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

        by reality77 on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 09:40:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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