Stop it. Please, just stop it.


May 12, 2009 by esarsea

Somehow I missed the news. Maybe it didn’t receive a lot of media coverage at the time. Maybe I need to start paying more attention to what’s going on. Probably a little bit of both. In case you missed the news like me, Congress  banned the incandescent light bulb in December of 2007.

The phase-out of incandescent light is to begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012, and end with the 40-watt bulb in 2014. The incandescent bulb will be replaced by the CFL or compact flourescent light.

I hate flourescent lights. Always have. The following information is from My Healthy Tidbits blog:

Studies worldwide prove that if schools and workplaces were lit with sunlight or full-spectrum bulbs, kids would do better in school, and rates of depression and suicide would drop everywhere, from colleges to prisons.  Fluorescent light in omnipresent in drugstores, banks, classrooms and even in our hospitals. 

Those flickering “cool white” bulbs have nodes on the ends that give off X-rays and other electromagnetic pollution.  The light they give is limited to mostly yellowish hues, and lacks the healthy, rainbow-colored benefits of sunlight and therapeutic, nutritious full-spectrum bulbs.

Researchers the world over have proven the dangers of fluorescent light.  Besides headaches, eye-strain, and sleep disorders, here are some of the major problems:

1. Skin cancer (melanoma) has been linked directly to excessive exposure of fluorescent light, rather than sunlight. Those who work indoors under fluorescent lights are twice as likely to get skin cancer, and those who sunbathed often had the lowest risk of skin cancer.

2. Problem children, learning disabilities, school anxiety, leukemia. Several studies prove traditional fluorescent bulbs used in classrooms cause anxiety, hyper-activity, attention problems, bodily stress, aggressive behavior, tooth decay, and other learning and performance problems.  Even blind children are as adversely affected by fluorescence as sighted children.  Reports of leukemia in elementary school students who studied in fluorescent-lit classrooms with no sunlight.

3. Depression:  Scientists have confirmed that certain types of fluorescent tubes leak radiation that can lead to depletion of brain chemicals such as serotonin, which can lead to depression and suicidal tendencies. 

4. SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder); From the fall until the spring, many people get depressed when they don’t get enough sunlight.  Researchers state that regular fluorescent light does not make up for sunlight because of it’s limited wavelength. Sunlight is vital to the stimulation of the pineal gland and to the body’s production of various hormones, and it affects the healthy secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, that affects moods.

The Russians and the Germans have known all this for years.  The Germans have restricted the use of cool, fluorescent light in public buildings, and hospitals have banned the troublesome light.

Studies have been done on mice that lived seven to eight months under fluorescent lights; whereas mice living under natural, unfiltered daylight lived twice as long.

The new fluorescent light bulbs have been blamed for causing migraine headaches and are made in China and filled with mercury.  They need to disposed of properly because they are hazardous waste. If you break one in your home, there are 3 pages of instructions as to safely remove the mercury.  Does this seem safe?

Safety concerns are also discussed in this article from World Net Daily:

WASHINGTON – As state and foreign governments enact forced phase-outs of incandescent light bulbs, consumers are being kept in the dark about the many downsides of compact fluorescent lamps, replacements being billed as an environmental and energy-savings panacea.

Across the U.S., schoolchildren are being urged to replace incandescent light bulbs in their homes, state legislatures are following the leads of foreign governments in banning the sale of the bulbs in the future and the federal Department of Energy and are highly recommending the switch to CFLs. Businesses like Wal-Mart are also pushing CFLs hard, as are environmental groups. But safe disposal plans and recycling centers for the mercury-laden compact fluorescent lamps, seen as the future, lag behind the hype. So, too, does the truth about what will become mandatory, fine-imposed handling requirements for CFLs by homeowners and businesses.

While CFLs arguably use less energy and last longer than incandescents, there is one serious environmental drawback – the presence of small amounts of highly toxic mercury in each and every bulb. This poses problems for consumers when breakage occurs and for disposal when bulbs eventually do burn out.

Most consumers, even those already using the CFLs, do not realize the long-term dangers the bulbs pose to the environment and the health of human beings.

While the EPA is on the CFL bandwagon as a means of reducing carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, which it believes contributes to global warming, it also quietly offers advice on cleanup of broken bulbs that might give consumers pause to consider dumping those incandescents any time soon.

When a CFL breaks, the EPA cautions consumers to open a window and leave the room immediately for at least 15 minutes because of the mercury threat. The agency suggests removing all materials by scooping fragments and powder using cardboard or stiff paper. Sticky tape is suggested as a way to get smaller particles. The EPA says vacuum cleaners and bare hands should never be used in such cleanups.

After final cleanup with a damp paper towel, the agency warns consumers to place all materials in a plastic bag.

“Seal and dispose of properly,” says the EPA. “Wash hands.”

But disposing of properly might be a tough thing to do, because CFLs should never be thrown in the trash like their old-fashioned incandescent predecessors. They need to be turned into recycling centers, which are few and far between.

When laws banning incandescent bulbs take effect, so do the mandatory fines on consumers and businesses that dispose of the new CFLs improperly.

Though the amount of mercury in each bulb is small – about 4 milligrams – the potential environmental hazard created by the mass introduction of billions of CFLs with few disposal sites and a public unfamiliar with the risks is great.

To address the concern, Wal-Mart announced earlier this month that its suppliers – mainly in China – have agreed to reduce the amount of mercury in the bulbs. Yet the announcement itself came as something of a shock to many consumers who were blindsided about the risks of mercury.

Mercury is probably best-known for its effects on the nervous system. It can also damage the kidneys and liver, and in sufficient quantities can cause death.

With an estimated 150 million CFLs sold in the United States in 2006 and with Wal-Mart alone projecting sales of 100 million this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried far too many will wind up in garbage dumps.

When sufficient mercury accumulates in a landfill, it can be emitted into the air and water in the form of vaporous methyl-mercury. From there, it can easily get into the food chain.

“Disposal of any mercury-contaminated material in landfills is absolutely alarming to me,” says Steve Lindberg, emeritus fellow of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The answer, of course, would be recycling and disposal centers. However, it is questionable whether consumers can be counted upon to bring their burned out and broken bulbs to special collection centers voluntarily. That’s why most of the laws banning incandescents also include fines for improper disposal of CFLs.

Those provisions in the new laws may be as hard to find for consumers as the fine print on CFL packaging warning them not to breathe the dust from broken bulbs.

Many waste centers that are set up to accept CFL recycling currently have only one collection day per year.

Consumers are discovering other downsides of CFLs besides convenience and safety issues:

  • Most do not work with dimmer switches 
  • They are available in only a few sizes 
  • Some emit a bluish light 
  • Some people say they get headaches while working or reading under them 
  • They cannot be used in recessed lighting enclosures or enclosed globes 
  • Fires are seen as a slight possibility
  • When CFLs do burn out, they often create some smoke, which consumers have found alarming. This is a result of the plastic on the bulb’s ballast melting and turning black. CFL manufacturers dismiss safety concerns.

    Despite the drawbacks, Australia, Canada and the European Union have all moved to ban incandescent bulbs. California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Rhode Island, are all in the process of legislating an end to Edison’s greatest invention. Even local towns and cities are getting into the act.

    But the craze didn’t start in Europe of Australia or Canada. It started in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. His action in banning the incandescent bulb was followed up quickly by Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. Only then did the trend continue in the industrialized western nations.

    Recycling experts say the solutions are at least five years away. Meanwhile, millions of consumers and green activists are being persuaded to make the switch now.

    Governments may indeed be promoting a kind of lighting that is itself nearly obsolete. Fluorescent lights are nothing new. They’ve been around for a long time. And while they may save money, some say the public hasn’t chosen them for good reasons – including, but not limited to, the mercury issue.

    Some experts predict the next generation of lighting, though, is LED lights. They are made from semiconductor materials that emit light when an electrical current flows through them. When this form of light takes over, all bulbs will be obsolete. Your wall tiles can light up. Curtains and drapes can light up. Even your dining room table could be made to light up – at exactly the level you want. And the best news is – no toxic waste.

    That’s what is ahead in the next decade, according to some in the industry.

    Nobody promoted CFLs as aggressively as IKEA. Not only does the retailer sell them, it also provides one of the very few recycling centers for the burned out bulbs. But even with a plethora of recycling centers, how will the public view the prospect of saving up dead bulbs and transporting them to recycling centers? And how about the danger of breakage in that process?

    “The industry is currently aiming at totally mercury-free CFL lighting, but this is still five to 10 years away,” admits IKEA.

    Those who really care about this problem right now are those involved in the waste industry.

    “Most agree more energy-efficient light bulbs can significantly curb air pollution, but fewer people are talking about how to deal with them at the end of their lives,” explained a page 1 story in the April 2 issue of Waste News. It goes on to explain “there is no plan to address air and water pollution concerns that could develop if consumers improperly dispose of the mercury-containing devices.”

    Here are more examples of the problems CFL pose, as detailed in another article in World Net Daily:

    WASHINGTON – Brandy Bridges heard the claims of government officials, environmentalists and retailers like Wal-Mart all pushing the idea of replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving and money-saving compact fluorescent lamps.

    So, last month, the Prospect, Maine, resident went out and bought two dozen CFLs and began installing them in her home. One broke. A month later, her daughter’s bedroom remains sealed off with plastic like the site of a hazardous materials accident, while Bridges works on a way to pay off a $2,000 estimate by a company specializing in environmentally sound cleanups of the mercury inside the bulb.

    With everyone from Al Gore to Wal-Mart to the Environmental Protection Agency promoting CFLs as the greatest thing since, well, the light bulb, consumers have been left in the dark about a problem they will all face eventually – how to get rid of the darn things when they burn out or, worse yet, break.

    CFLs are all the rage. They are the spirally shaped, long-lasting bulbs everyone is being urged, cajoled and guilt-tripped into purchasing to replace Thomas Edison’s incandescents, which are being compared to sports utility vehicles for their impracticality and energy inefficiency. However, there is no problem disposing of incandescents when their life is over. You can throw them in the trash can and they won’t hurt the garbage collector. They won’t leech deadly compounds into the air or water. They won’t kill people working in the landfills.

    The same cannot be said about the mercury-containing CFLs. They bear disposal warnings on the packaging. But with limited recycling prospects and the problems experienced by Brandy Bridges sure to be repeated millions of times, some think government, the green community and industry are putting the cart before the horse marketing the new technology so ferociously.

    Consider her plight.

    When the bulb she was installing in a ceiling fixture of her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom crashed to the floor and broke into the shag carpet, she wasn’t sure what to do. Knowing about the danger of mercury, she called Home Depot, the retail outlet that sold her the bulbs.

    The store warned her not to vacuum the carpet and directed her to call the poison control hotline in Prospect, Maine. Poison control staffers suggested she call the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

    The latter sent over a specialist to test the air in her house for mercury levels. While the rest of the house was clear, the area of the accident was contaminated above the level considered safe. The specialist warned Bridges not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself – recommending a local environmental cleanup firm.

    That company estimated the cleanup cost, conservatively, at $2,000. And, no, her homeowners insurance won’t cover the damage.

    Since she could not afford the cleanup, Bridges has been forced to seal off her daughter’s bedroom with plastic to avoid any dust blowing around. Not even the family pets are permitted in to the bedroom. Her daughter is forced to sleep downstairs in an overcrowded household.

    She has continued to call public officials for help – her two U.S. senators included. So far, no one is beating down Bridges’ door to help – not even Al Gore, whose Academy Award-winning movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” urges everyone to change to CFLs to save the planet from global warming.

    Bridges is not alone.

    Elizabeth Doermann of Vanderbilt, Tenn., had a similar experience. After her CFL bulb broke – because the cat knocked over a lamp – she didn’t call Home Depot. Instead, she did what she had always done when old-fashioned incandescent bulbs had broken. She vacuumed up the mess.

    Only then did she learn about the mercury hazard.

    “If I had known it had mercury in it, I would have been a lot more careful,” she told the Tennessean. “I wouldn’t have vacuumed it up. That blew the mercury probably all through the house.”

    The warnings on the packages of some of the new bulbs are in fine print – hard to read. They are also voluntary, with many bulbs being sold and distributed with no disposal warnings at all.

    Charmain Miles of Toronto, Canada, had another frightening experience with a CFL bulb.

    Last month she smelled smoke on the second floor of her home, only to discover it was emanating from a new energy-efficient bulb.

    “I was horrified,” she told a local TV station. “I went through every place upstairs and took out every bulb.”

    The bulb had been placed in a track-lighting fixture. Though the bulb contained no warning about such fixtures, it turns out CFLs are not for use in track, recessed or dimmer fixtures.

    And while the Consumers Council of Canada advises not to purchase any package of CFL bulbs that contains no instructions, the entire country is on a timetable to eliminate entirely the only alternative – the incandescent bulb.

    In fact, practically the whole world – fearing global warming – is getting ready to ban the incandescent light bulb. It started in Cuba, moved to Venezuela, then Australia, Canada and the European Union. Now individual states in the U.S., including California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Rhode Island, are all in the process of legislating an end to Edison’s greatest invention. Even local towns and cities are getting into the act.

    The rap against the incandescent is that it uses more energy to produce light. Advocates of CFLs say they save money and energy by producing more light over more time for less money and less energy. They prefer to minimize concerns about cleanup and disposal, usually saying more needs to be done in the area of recycling.

    But recycling experts say the solutions are at least five years away. Meanwhile, millions of consumers and green activists are being persuaded to make the switch.

    “EPA currently doesn’t provide a unified message to the public on what to do with fluorescent lamps once they are no longer used,” admits a draft announcing plans for a pilot project by the agency.

    Yet, the EPA’s Energy Star program is one of the major forces behind the push for CFLs.

    “Currently the need to recycle mercury in fluorescent lamps isn’t mentioned on the Energy Star web page although they are working with the Office of Solid Waste to address this,” the memo continues. “This may create confusion to the public about doing the right thing.”

    In fact, even the memo doesn’t advise what the public should do.

    No question about it, though. You as a consumer will be required to find certified waste recycling centers to turn in your dead and broken bulbs.

    The American Lighting Association has some ideas. It has created a list of five considerations that should be weighed by all legislative bodies considering bans on incandescent bulbs.

    The association of American manufacturers and retail outlets suggests any such legislation include the following provisions:

  • a lumen per watt energy efficiency standard should be established rather than a ban on a specific type of product. It should include a 10-year goal 
  • halogen bulbs should be exempted 
  • incandescent bulbs 40 watts or less should be exempt 
  • collection and disposal plans for mercury-based CFLs should be made prior to any ban; 
  • persuade consumers through education rather than coerce them through limiting choices
  • Governments may indeed be promoting a kind of lighting that is itself nearly obsolete. Fluorescent lights are nothing new. They’ve been around for a long time. And while they may save money, some say the public hasn’t chosen them for good reasons – including, but not limited to, the mercury issue. 

    To put this all in perspective, compare the monthly kWh consumption of the typical home by appliance, as compared to an incadescent bulb. Proponents of the ban point to the production of carbon dioxide, as a result of generating the energy to power these light bulbs, as their reason for moving to CFL’s. It would seem their efforts would be better directed elsewhere.

    The Feds already have laws in place about how much water my shower can spray on me. Shower heads are limited to 2.5  gallons per minute, and it’s illegal for me to remove or tamper with the water restrictor. Kiss my ass, I’ll just take a longer shower and end up using the same amount (if not more) hot water. It’s similar to having to flush my “high efficiency” toilet twice.

    It’s not too far off that the Feds are going to have sensors on our homes, dictating (if not controlling) how cool we can set our air conditioning in the Summer and how warm we can keep our homes in the Winter.

    Maybe we should outlaw soda pop in hopes of reducing greenhouse gasses. On average, each 16 oz. soft drink contains 2.5 grams of carbon dioxide. The average american consumes 43 gallons of soda pop per year. There’s 250 million of us. Do the math and pop drinkers are putting 500,000,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Put that in your next book, Al Gore!

    13 thoughts on “Stop it. Please, just stop it.

    1. Randy Spiker says:

      Stu, I believe you win the title for posting the longest blog ever on this site. When I get a chance to read it all, I’ll let you know.

      Good job!

    2. bill says:

      I hate floursescents. The light is hard on your eyes after a while, but nothing like retina damage from direct radiation from the sun when the protective ozone layer burns through from greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels in electrical generating plants, blah, blah, blah.

      Actually, I like nukes. We need more of them. Anyone who doesn’t want a nuke generating electricity in their area is a pussy and a socialist-marxist liberal.

      But more alarming are your sources (I’m teasing. This is for that disgusting photo of Michael Savage you sent me along side my innocent vacation photo, begging a comparison. The only ting missing was a caption “Separated at birth?”).

      Wiki say:
      “WorldNetDaily provides primarily evangelical-conservative-oriented news and editorials, publishes letters to the editor, maintains forums and conducts a daily poll. It has been described as having a right wing conservative perspective.”

      Just the folks I would turn to for information on protecting the environment. People who think we’re in the “End Days” and nothing is to be conserved ’cause we’re all gonna die just as soon as Baby Jesus comes back and God kills everyone (re: The Rapture).

      And the other Healthy Foodie site blog thing,”Studies have shown…” What studies? What are your sources, Healthy Foodie thing? Where’s the documenation on the studies you cite? FUCK!!! FUCK!!!!FUCK!!!

      We use the little corkscrew flourescent bulbs on the grounds of our condo development. Since I’m on the board, I see the utility bills and there’s no contest between the flourescents and old incandescents. Hands down, the flourescents last longer and use a fraction of the electricity.

      But flourescent light makes my eyes look tired and my face old and Savage-like, so, for vanity sake, I’m gonna go with incandescents. Not.

      And I hear you on toilet thing. I bought a “high-efficiency” toilet on a bathroom remodel a couple of years ago. The secret to not having to flush twice at the end of doing your bidness? Flush once during, and once at the end ;-) Really stupid, honestly. You have to use cheap, thin, single-ply toilet paper beause anything that ressembles comfortable t.p. is gonna need help from Joe The Plunger with your boxers down around your ankles.

      As far as anyone regulating your room temp, etc., it’s happening now. It’s called an apartment building.

      Good article, though, Stu, really good article. I’m sending you a 13-watt flourescent bulb for your front porch. The new ones contain 2.5 milligrams of mercury. If you break one, leave the room for an hour while the mercury evaporates. Or, if you’re real aggressive, use a wet paper towel or sticky tape to pick up the mercury.

      An old-school thermometer contains 500 milligrams of metallic mercury. A Super Tanker!

      So, while I wouldn’t recommend sticking the floursecent bulb up your ass, be EXTREMELY careful with the thermometer next tme you’re running a fever. That thing could kill you instantly if it broke!

      By the way, check out on the Brandy Bridges-CFL story. Seems WND only told the bad parts. Go figure. What REALLY happened is on

    3. esarsea says:

      I must admit I didn’t qualify or research the political ideology of my sources. I knew the directions I wanted to go, and simply did a quick Google search to locate a few articles on the subject. I don’t think that World Net Daily’s conservative leanings have much impact on this topic though. It’s not much of a political or religious issue, I think?

      I also have not checked out the snopes thing you mentioned – but between the World Net Daily pieces and the My Healthy Tidbits post, I believe the gist of the story is pretty much there. I wasn’t too concerned with any lack of citations or references because I (for the most part) was already familiar with many of the negative aspects of flourescent lighting. My wife has done a lot of research on the topic over the years as a result of her concerns with flourescent lighting in the classroom. It been a subject of conversation with us over the years, and much of what was presented in the My Healthy Tidbits piece is consistent with what we had already learned.

      I just feel that it may be a bit short-sighted to ban incandescent lighting right now. Why not wait until LED technology catches up and allow us to bypass the CFL issue altogether? While a mercury thermometer may have 200 times the mercury of a CFL, we both know there isn’t much of a problem with thermometers showing up in the trash and/or landfill. The sheer volume of discarded lightbulbs is problematic I think. Not everyone of going to recycle these things properly.

      It is also my understanding that incandescent light bulbs are a domestic product, while CFL’s are mostly manufactured in China? But that’s another topic…

      I was surprised about your apartment comment! Haven’t lived in an apartment for a long time, but back then we still had our own independent heating/cooling system, and our own power meter that determined our monthly charge. Are they building apartments with centralized climate control now? That’s still a long ways (thank goodness) from the Feds having a say over the climate in my own home though.

      Glad you liked the photos! I couldn’t resist :-)

    4. Jane says:

      seriously, why worry about the mercury with all that nuclear power generated waste?

      and we recently bought a very inexpensive toilet with a small volume flush i forget but less than 2 gallons. its rated a 10 for flushing. it has a Niagra flush, its like a bucket in the tank that just dumps so you get the whole volume at once sorta. works great

    5. Jane says:

      sections 1, 2 and 3 in the healthy tidbits thing sound sorta whack to me….
      and anyway you don’t get sunlight from incandesants do you?

      anyway Stu this seems to be very important to you. have you contacted your legislators about your concerns?

    6. esarsea says:

      Well my gripe isn’t about the loss of sunlight. It’s more about the sense of irritation I feel when my elected officials tell me what kind of f***ing lightbulbs and showerheads and toilets I can use. Next thing you know they’ll start taxing sugar, because they think they know what’s best for me! You know, it takes 38 (count ’em, 38) teaspoons of sugar to equal the calories in 1 Big Mac hamburger…and the sugar has 0 grams of fat while a Big Mac has 32 grams of fat. But I bet they don’t start taxing fast food under the “We need to lower health care costs” umbrella. They’ll just tax sugar…and then of course continue the sugar subsidy.

    7. Jane says:

      i only mentioned the sunlight thing because it seemed like that was what one of your cut and pastes was focusing on.

    8. esarsea says:

      No shit? Oh, sorry for the potty mouth. Must be my bathroom sense of humor. I seem to be flush with it.

    9. Jane says:

      its a well known fact that sugary shit is hard to flush

    10. bill says:

      Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh, I almost forgot! What I really hate about my “efficient” toilet is that it’s very violent in its flushing action. It takes that little bit of water and somehow turbo charges it through the pipe and the result is more like the toilet in a passenger jet. You know, you flush and GOD roars back at you like you’ve just opened the f*cking Ninth Gate of Hell against His wishes.

      Now, that’s pretty cool, especially if you’re a bit sleepy ’cause it wakes you right the f*ck up.

      But, or should I say butt, the problem is that the violent swoosh hits the bowl like a fire hose and the result is an upward spray of microscopic, atomized water and, ahem, “stuff” that gets thrown back into the air, like a cloud of poison gas released by Islamo-Fascists who work the week-end shift at the corner 7-11. (Reminds me of a great joke: I really feel sorry for guys from the Middel East who REALLY just want to become crop dusters).

      A Clorox tablet in the holding tank is a MUST.

      God, I miss my old toilet! Slow, wasteful, sometimes you stood there, mesmerized and just watched as it swirled and gurgled and you kept your fingers crossed that everything would somehow eventually disappear.

    11. Joanie says:

      The only good thing I can say about the fantastic new lightbulbs is that the property owner went and replaced all bulbs they possibly could with the new — on their dime. Of course, I have a couple lamps that use weird sized bulbs and they couldn’t do anything about them.

      And toilets? Showers? Puhleeze. Until you live in Southern California, you don’t really know water rationing. We have mini-showers and super flushers. It’s ridiculous.

    12. Jane says:

      I don’t have any specific numbers but I did do a little looking into so far of the mercury issue. a couple things i read so far are that the older/more used the cfl bulb is, the less mercury escapes from it in disposal (its still there but adheres to the walls more), and also there is a reduction in mercury emissions resulting from the coal burning reduction because of less energy used for lighting. of course there is more energy used in production of the bulbs and unfotunately quite a few illness of cfl bulb factory workers.
      alot of things to consider. such is the ‘ story of stuff ‘ (.com)

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