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June 3, 2008

Compact Fluorescents: Congressionally Mandated Environmental Menace

Perversely yet unsurprisingly, the overpriced curlicue light bulbs that Congress is mandating, allegedly for the sake of the environment, contain enough mercury to be environmentally ruinous. Here's what the EPA says to do when one inevitably breaks:

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room
• Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
• Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug
• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials
• If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
• You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
• If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.
Disposal of Clean-up Materials
• Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

That's a lot of work for a broken light bulb. But whatever you do, don't call in the authorities to help. That's been known to cost as much as $2,000.

As John Lott points out, eventually you'll need to get rid of the bulb even if it doesn't break — which will happen all the sooner if you don't leave it on for at least 15 minutes at a time. Unless you own your own biohazard disposal service, you'll be tempted to throw it in the trash, where it will shatter, either in the bin or in a garbage truck, exposing sanitation workers to the dangerous mercury. But if the unnecessary toxic waste gives them mercury poisoning, at least they can take solace in knowing it's all for the sacred cause of the environment.

Once light bulbs represented good ideas.

On a tip from Byron.

Posted by Van Helsing at June 3, 2008 9:14 PM


I'm rushing right out to start an enviro remediaton company, just for these bulbs.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$44 = Thank you liberal MoonBats.

Posted by: Oiao at June 3, 2008 9:40 PM

bet you can't carry one on an airplane

silly moooslims will begin throwing them while rioting against catoon pictures of their pedophile prophet

what if a truck has a wreck when carrying a load of those suckers to home despot?

where DO they get all that mercury anyway?

are compact flourescents allowed on lobster boats?

what happens if you stick a dozen up an Algorian's butt?

Posted by: Jimbo at June 3, 2008 10:17 PM

If enviro-wacko's want to use these dim, flickering things, have at it. It's the "mandated" part that pisses me off. I should have a choice...but in a progressive-liberal world, that only applies to late term abortions or sexual preference.

These morons are pushing for electric cars which, if everyone used them, would draw about a billion times more energy than a damn incandescent bulb...but that's OK, since it's "saving the planet" (????). I can't wait to see what happens to the power grid when a million cars are trying to re-charge during a heat wave.

Unless we want to go nuclear, all those kilowatts will come from coal, oil and natural gas. Yeah, THAT will be less polluting than running cars on gasoline.

Oh, by the way all you enviro-eco-health-conscious people out there...since you are so worried about EMF generated by high voltage lines and electric motors in things like shavers and blenders, how healthy will it be to sit within a few inches of a very powerful electric motor while commuting to and from work...and the store...and taking the kids to school...and all the other hours you spend in a car? Ever think of THAT?

Posted by: matt at June 3, 2008 10:48 PM

I saw a brochure advertising these things on some moonbat Aussie government-funded site, Ausaid or something. Had a picture of some random person who is "doing her part to fight climate poverty" by using compact fluoro bulbs.

Firstly WTF is climate poverty? And 2ndly HTF does using one of these make anyone richer?

I wonder if it's related to those carbon credits that enrich the lives of Indian farmers by buying them treadmills to pump water so they don't use Gaia-raping electric ones?

Posted by: mandible claw at June 3, 2008 11:53 PM

First let me say this: Mandates are usually if not always wrong. And this should not be a mandate, for some reason I think a man date is wrong, lol.

Fluorescents are the future. Scare tactics dont work. I don't remember ever having to evac a house due to a broken thermometer. And don't even try to argue the aerosol mercury or whatever.

Posted by: Parker at June 3, 2008 11:57 PM

We've been using these in Airstrip One for a while now. Our energy companies are even sending them out for free to their customers.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time that the potential hazards these things contain has been so clearly put. It's only recently that there were reports that they contained mercury!

They're expensive to buy and don't provide as much light as a regular bulb. While they are "warming up" some of them are incredibly dim.

Our downstairs bathroom only has one small window, so we ended up leaving the energy saving bulb on constantly, 24/7, because you were in and out before it had a chance to give off any real light. I suspect that this practice uses more energy than turning on and off a regular light when it's needed.

But, hey, we're doing our bit to support the climate change myth ;)

Posted by: essemess at June 4, 2008 12:04 AM

Our energy companies are even sending them out for free to their customers.
Posted by essemess at June 4, 2008 12:04 AM

Nothing costs so much as that which is free.

Posted by: Lyle at June 4, 2008 12:20 AM

I replaced almost all of the bulbs in my house about nine months ago with these babies that are supposed to last 5-10 years.

Two of them have already burnt out, and they were not operating under adverse conditions.

I haven't gotten rid of my incandescents yet.

Posted by: ent at June 4, 2008 1:01 AM

A couple of the lamps in my house have those energy- saving bulbs in them, and one of them recently burned out. Does anyone here know how I can properly dispose of it without running the risk of it shattering?

Posted by: Adam at June 4, 2008 3:29 AM

I'm still hoarding incandescents in advance of the mandate.

It's absolutely insane that the Federal government is dictating what kind of lightbulbs we peasants are supposed to use.

If they were really better than the alternative, no mandate would be necessary.

Posted by: V the K at June 4, 2008 3:31 AM

One of the members of Congress, with some balls should bring a case of these toxic bulbs to the floor and dump them out on the floor or a table, to shatter them. Just to make a point. Of course all that Mercury in the air might make them nuttier than they already are. "Mad as Hatters" I say! (if you arent familiar with pre 20th century hat making you might not get that one).

Posted by: Anonymous at June 4, 2008 5:14 AM

Anon, that's actually a very good idea. I think a citizen might get arrested for it (which would be worth it), but a senator, maybe a good skeptic like James Inhofe, could get away with it.

Posted by: V the K at June 4, 2008 7:21 AM

Inhofe should start a game of "Hot CFL Bulb" (like Hot Potato) and have each Senator toss it to another one until it breaks, then have the hazmat crew come in and give a cleanup demonstration. Odds are Senator Byrd will be the one to drop it! LOL!

Posted by: Anonymous at June 4, 2008 8:16 AM

The dose makes the poison.

1. Fluorescent light bulbs have been around commercially since the 1930s.

2. They have always contained mercury.

3. There is no evidence of mass (or even individual) mercury poisonings from the use of these, or the random disposal of same.

4. There is no evidence readily available of land/water contamination from “improper” disposal of fluorescent bulbs. If there were, the eco-nuts would be shouting it from the street corners.

5. Mercury is harmful primarily only as organic compounds of mercury.

6. It requires an exposure between 1.1 and 4.4 milligrams/meter^3 to a mercury compound vapor for 4-8 hours to get any kind of acute effect.

7. There is not enough mercury in a CF bulb to reach those levels even in a monk’s cell.

8. The only danger from a broken CF bulb is from the broken glass.

Posted by: Paracelsus at June 4, 2008 9:08 AM

If CFL bulbs are so harmless why does the government have so many freaking rules about their disposal and cleanup? I remember as a kid, that neighborhood kids would pick thru peoples trash find those big long fluorescent bulbs and smash them on a guard rail in the alley behind my house. They would make this cool popping sound. POP !!

Posted by: Anonymous at June 4, 2008 9:15 AM

I hate these things. As a photographer these things are the bane of my existence. They cast a sick, yellow light that doesn't do a whole hell of a lot for the read of the image. Thank God I've stockpiled a small arsenal of dirty, evil, MMGW causing light bulbs from PaleoAmerica's last years.

Posted by: Thulsa Doom at June 4, 2008 10:16 AM

Paracelsus, you are missing the point. England now has trash police that can fine you (or worse) if you have the "wrong" trash in your can. The EPA can essentially do the same (try operating a spray-paint booth and see what hoops you must jump through).

The deal is that on the one hand, something as benign as a regular light bulb or carbon dioxide are now "environmental hazards" and "threatening global climate", yet they want you to use dim, expensive, ugly-looking CFL's even though they contain mercury.

They can't have it both ways.

Posted by: matt at June 4, 2008 10:21 AM


No, I am not missing the point, I am well aware of the Brit Wheelie Bin Cops.

The point is that all the the environmental scares concerning CFLs, as well as any regulations regarding how they are handled or disposed of, are just as manufactured as is the BS about anthropometric global warming, or nukes, or DDT, or any of a number of things the eco-nuts get their innumerate and scientifically illiterate panties in a wad over. If a tenth of what they get atwitter over was a tenth as dangerous as they spout, we'd all be dead 100 times over by now.

Personally, I like the choice of using either incandescent or CFLs, and use both. I use CFLs in places where the lights are on nearly always, and which are usually a pain in the tuchas to change - I have had some on constantly for 5 years now.

So - if you don't like CFLs, fine, just come up with a better reason than an imaginary environmental menace. Propogating such ignorance should be left to the left.

Posted by: Paracelsus at June 4, 2008 10:56 AM

I don't like them. They put off unpleasant light.

And I'm against things being mandatory or banned unless absolutely necessary.

Posted by: forest at June 4, 2008 11:27 AM

Para, I still think you're getting me wrong. I'm WITH you...the CFL thing is total nonsense and, like you, I think a choice or CFL or incandescent is the best solution (I use CFL in my shop, and they are the house, no way).

I am just trying to point out the double standard that the left/green people want to ignore. Obviously, the mercury in a CFL is insignificant. But it wouldn't be to THEM according to their own "everything is toxic" standards. Same with hybrid cars. The batteries require a lot of nasty chemicals to make, not to mention to recycle. BUT, because they like CFL's and hybrids, suddenly the "toxic waste" problem evaporates from their consciousness.

My long-winded way of saying "they are hypocrites".

Posted by: matt at June 4, 2008 12:55 PM