CFL - Compact Fluorescent Lights. Good or Bad Decision?

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Home => Product Alerts => CFL - Compact Fluorescent Lights. Good or Bad Decision?

CFL - Compact Fluorescent Lights. Good or Bad Decision?

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On February 20, 2007, Australia announced that it would phase out the sale of the incandescent light bulbs (that we use nowadays) by 2010 and replace them with CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.

Two months after Australia's announcement, the Canadian government announced that it too would phase out sales of incandescents by 2012.

On December 19, 2007, USA also announced that it will phase out incandescent bulbs by 2014.

In fact, President Bush signed an energy bill that will make the production or sale of the incandescent bulbs illegal after the phase-out period, which means people will be forced to buy the CFLs whether they like it or not.

The European Union announced in March 2007 that it plans to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Part of this cut will be achieved by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Over the next 10 years, China, which makes 70 percent of the world's light bulbs, has agreed to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of CFLs.

It is a worldwide move to ban the incandescent bulbs and change them with the new, as the claim states "energy efficient" CFLs. The goal is to reduce the energy demand and shut down coal-fired plants to reduce the green-house emissions and reduce the global warming.

Ninety percent of the energy a traditional light bulb uses, for example, is thrown off as heat rather than light. This waste contributes to the overproduction of energy from coal-fired power plants, which contributes to the emission of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. By 2020, bulbs will be required to be 70 percent or more energy efficient. The new compact fluorescent light bulbs will not only help reduce the global warming, but add savings to your electric bill.

The idea is excellent, reduce the global warming sources by reducing the energy demand and lower our electric bills.


1. Is the chosen product (Compact Fluorescent Light) the right solution for it?

2. Has this product been well thought through or other factors might have played a role in the decision?

3. Do you even know what you're faced with or would you rather ignore it and deal with the consequences?

To answer the first question whether this product was the right solution or not, the CFLs contain Mercury. Even though the CFLs contain only about 5 milligrams of Mercury, this fact alone will force us to no longer dispose the burned out or broken light bulbs in the garbage. The CFLs need to be recycled. Well, how many people recycle?

In a simple survey carried out by, about 50% of the people answered that they regularly recycle. If we pull out our handy-dandy calculator, we would get the following numbers:

The world population is estimated to be more than 6 billion at the time of this writing. If half of those people throw out only one CFL a year in the regular garbage, when multiplied by the so insignificant 5 milligrams, we end up loading our landfills with about 15 tons of Mercury a year.

Or, to make it look less painful, if we take for an example the USA population of roughly 303 million at the time of this writing, divide it by 2 (because around 50% of people recycle) and multiply it by 5 milligrams, we still get about 3/4 of a ton of Mercury being dumped in the American landfills a year. And that's only for one light bulb.

Our land is already over-contaminated with chemicals and other poisonous toxins, now we'll just add Mercury to the mix. So much for saving the planet.

Perhaps, a different product would have been a much better idea than the Mercury-contaminated compact fluorescent light bulbs, which leads us to the next question.

As far as other factors that might have played a role in the decision, we'll just mention the fact that in the push to ban the incandescent light bulbs in favor of the compact fluorescent light bulbs, the 2007 USA administration was joined by Philips Lighting, which is -- you should probably sit down for this -- the world's foremost manufacturer of CFLs. What a business opportunity for Philips Lighting, hah?

To answer the third question on whether you should ignore this whole thing and deal with the consequences or better educate yourself on time, let's not forget the Discovery Channel's show Myth Busters' incident.

This was included in one of their shows and aired on the Discovery Channel before any of these laws came in affect. During the filming of one of their shows in order to "bust a myth" a projectile hit the fluorescent lighting over their heads and broke it in hundreds of pieces, which fell about 2 feet from them.

That's when the co-host Jamie Hyneman said: "We should get out of here." However, no one took him for serious. A few seconds later, he repeated with more serious tone: "I'm serious, we should get out of here because that thing has Mercury."

As soon as he said the word "Mercury," everybody got up in a hurry, the camera stopped filming, and they left the room until it was safe to return.

What this means to you is that even though your attention is being rerouted toward the savings that you will enjoy on your electric bill, the Mercury, albeit small amount, is all real and you need to take it seriously.

There's a whole procedure in place on how to clean up broken CFL, handle and recycle. You can no longer simply vacuum it or collect the broken pieces with a broom and simply throw them in trash. You could do that, but each time you do that you increase your exposure to Mercury, and not to forget that you may get prosecuted by your local government if they do not permit for the CFLs to be dumped in your trash.

In the end, whether you like it or not, whether you support it or not, or whether you think it was a good decision or not, the law says that you will have to use them.

Recommended Further Reading:

Information on Proper Disposal of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs [PDF]

Clean-up Guidelines

CFL Questions & Answers

A Nation of Dim Bulbs - The nasty little surprise hidden in the new energy bill - by Andrew Ferguson


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