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Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Lamps


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While energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps consume less electricity and lead to less emissions from power plants, they do contain mercury – a hazardous material.

Does the mercury they contain pose a risk to consumers?

Overall, in terms of mercury emissions, are compact fluorescent lamps beneficial to the environment compared to other lamps?

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Lamps

  1. 1. Concerned about Mercury in Energy Saving Lamps ? Mercury is a hazardous and closely regulated substance. We can for In view of the small amount of mercury any risk to the environment. However, instance be exposed to this heavy and the exceptional nature of this facilities that collect and recycle them metal when eating contaminated event, it is very unlikely that such a could pose a local, environmental risk fish or using products that contain breakage would pose any health risks if they do not deal appropriately with mercury. Accidentally inhaling or to adults. The risk to a fetus exposed potential mercury releases. swallowing large quantities of through its mother is negligible. There mercury can lead to severe health Therefore the opinion of the EC Scientific are no specific data on potential risks to effects. Committee on Health and Environmental children, but risks are also expected to Risks (SCHER) is that compact fluorescent be negligible. As a matter of precaution, lamps offer a net environmental benefit1 hat are Compact Fluorescent W in case children play in a room where a compared to incandescent and halogen Light Bulbs? CFL has been broken, it is best to aerate light bulbs, even when mercury content the room and to perform a thoroughEnergy-efficient compact fluorescent is taken into account. cleaning to avoid them swallowinglight bulbs, in short CFLs, are a compact small amounts of mercury when puttingversion of the familiar long fluorescent fingers and objects with contaminated(“neon”) tubes. They consume about 5 1 What can I do? dust in their mouth.times less electricity than incandescent 3 se energy saving lamps and recycle Ulight bulbs, thereby reducing emissions 1 re energy-saving lamps A them to reduce mercury pollution.from power plants, but they contain increasing mercury pollution? Switching from inefficient bulbs tosome mercury – a hazardous metal. compact fluorescent lamps saves Over their entire life, and compared energy and reduces overall mercury to incandescent light bulbs, compact1 an the mercury they contain C emissions even if the bulbs are fluorescent lamps save significant harm me? not recycled eventually. Bringing amounts of energy. As a result, they these bulbs to collection points forThe mercury contained in CFLs cannot lead to a reduction of mercury emissions recycling at the end of their usefulescape from the bulbs, except if they linked to power generation. Overall, life, rather than throwing thembreak. This is why old CFLs must be this saving in mercury emissions exceeds away with unsorted waste allows thecarefully disposed of with hazardous the amount of mercury they contain mercury to be recovered and reduceswaste for special handling and not and that they could release if broken or emissions even further.discarded with unsorted household inadequately discarded with unsortedwaste. waste. 3 imit exposure if a compact L fluorescent lamp breaks accidentallyWhen a CFL breaks, a small amount of Indeed, producing electricity in coal- by airing the room before cleaningmercury vapour is released and can be fired power plants leads to the release the lamp with a wet cloth, avoid skinbreathed in by someone in the room. of mercury to the environment. Since contact with debris and do not use aConcentrations in the air can be briefly close to a third of Europe’s electricity vacuum cleaner.relatively high, but fall rapidly as the is produced from coal, using any typevapour turns to small liquid droplets. If of light bulb contributes to mercury 3 ead more on energy saving light Rthe room is not ventilated sufficiently emissions, even if the lamp itself contains bulbs, the phase-out of inefficientand cleaned thoroughly, this mercury no mercury. lamp types and what Europeanmay stick to surfaces or dust for some legislation is already in place at It is very unlikely that the use and disposaltime. of compact fluorescent lamps poses This fact sheet is based on the scientific opinion “Mercury in Certain Energy-saving Light Bulbs“, an opinion adopted on 18 May 2010 by the European Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) of the European Commission. The detailed and nuanced view of SCHER on this issue is available at: scientific_committees/environmental_risks/docs/scher_o_124.pdf EUROPEAN COMMISSION