What is CFL?
A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also
called energy-saving light, is a fluorescent
lamp designed to replace an incandescent
The lamps use a tube which is curved or
folded to fit into the space of an incandescent
bulb, and a compact electronic ballast in the
base of the lamp.
About 90% of the energy from an
incandescent bulb is emitted as heat, and
only about 10% of that energy is emitted as
Only about 30% of energy consumed by a
compact fluorescent bulb is converted to
heat. (Source: Progress energy, Florida ,Student Environmental
Standard:Report on Mercury lighting)
The central element in a fluorescent lamp is a sealed glass
The tube contains mercury and an inert gas, typically
argon, kept under very low pressure.
The tube also contains a phosphor powder, coated along
the inside of the glass.
The tube has two electrodes, one at each end, which are
wired to an electrical circuit.
The electrical circuit, is hooked up to an alternating
current (AC) supply.
Source: How Stuff works
Lamp turned on
Current flows through the electrical circuit to the
Cathode emits electrons
Source : How Stuff Works
This energy changes the liquid mercury to a gas
As electrons and charged atoms move through the
tube, some of them will collide with gaseous
Mercury atoms excited to a higher energy
Source : How Stuff Works
On de-excitation, these atoms release photons
in UV range
The photons excite the phosphor atoms to higher
On de-excitation, phosphor atoms emit light
photons in visible range (visible to us)
Source : How Stuff Works
Toxics Link had undertaken a study in
September 2011 to assess the total
quantity of mercury present in CFLs in India
with an objective to reduce mercury levels
in CFLs and promote the issue of its end-oflife management.
To detect the total mercury content in CFL lights
sold in India
To assess exceedance in mercury levels in Indian
CFLs as compared to the global standards
To make recommendations to regulators for
mercury standards in CFLs and end of life
management for CFLs.
The study was done in New Delhi, India
Twenty-two samples of CFL lights of wellknown brands were purchased from
authorized dealers (brand names not
Wattages vary randomly between 5 and 20
The CFL samples were sent to Delhi Test House (NABL
accredited lab – ISO/ IEC 17025:2005), Azadpur, Delhi
for analysis of mercury content.
There has been no universally acceptable Standard
Operating Protocol (SOP) for analyzing mercury
content in CFLs. ToxicsLink and Delhi Test House have
jointly developed the SOP for this study
Average mercury content per CFL bulb was
found to be 21.21mg (global standards at 5
Fifty percent of the samples analyzed were
found to have a high average mercury
content ranging between 12.24mg and
A large variation of mercury content across
different wattage even within a single
brand was found.
In most brands the mercury content
decreased with increasing wattage.
(Reason : High light output (lumens) with lesser wattage implies more
Average mercury dosing in India is four to six times
the standards followed in some of the developed
With the present growth rate, approximately 8.5
tonnes of mercury would be consumed on an
Such an amount would to be managed when these
units burn out or are discarded.
infrastructure to deal with the discarded and
manufacturers to cap mercury dosing in CFLs
The Government must come up with a
maximum limit for the mercury dosing in CFLs.
At present, there are no regulations (neither
for consumer nor producer) for proper disposal
and recycling of CFLs
The end-of life management must be the joint
responsibility of manufacturers, regulatory
agencies and executive bodies
Consumers, too, have a responsibility for the
proper disposal of broken and used-up lamps.
For recycling etc. the best-suited technology
must be decided based on a collective dialogue
between various manufacturers.
Cautionary (Hg) mark must be made mandatory
with specific amount present in CFL.
Proper instructions on managing broken CFLs
also be provided.
The amount of mercury in CFLs is strictly
regulated in many countries
On February 26, 2011, Environment Canada
proposed a regulation that CFLs will be subject to
a maximum mercury content limit of 3.5 mg.(Source:
Ministry of Natural Resources, Canada: Office of Energy Efficiency)
In the European Union, it is restricted to 5 mg
under their RoHS regulations.(ToxicsLink Study)
Waste collection agencies are set up in US for
collection of broken CFLs by EPA (Environmental
In India , CFLS have been exempt from recent
Efforts undertaken (as reported by Central Pollution Control Board)
to reduced mercury dosing in CFLs to an optimum
But CPCB has not prescribed an upper limit.
ToxicsLink study finds that CFLs in India contain
more than 10 times the current 5 mg limit.
The introduction of massive amounts of CFLs in
the market has led to broken and discarded CFLs
with nowhere to go.
These are dumped, lie around or are sometimes
scavenged for glass, metals and electronic chips.
They cause exposure to wastepickers, also leads
to environmental contamination.
The "Bachat Lamp Yojana" launched by the Indian
Government in Feb 2009 aimed at the large scale
replacement of incandescent bulbs in households
But no initiatives for making the Indian consumer
aware of deadly effects and proper disposal of
There is currently no substance that can serve as
an alternative to mercury to produce light in
.(Source: Ministry of Natural Resources, Canada:
Office of Energy Efficiency)
But the developed nations have successfully
regulated the amount of mercury in CFLs
Only Televisions, Mobile phones and Monitors are taken back at
authorized collection centres.
The packaging of a CFL from Philips contains no specific
information on disposal or risks associated with mercury
contained in the bulbs. The information on the packaging
details the life expectancy, wattage, a recycling symbol and an
A rating.(Source: VaporLok™ Products LLC is a company dedicated to providing
environmentally safe packaging solutions for mercury containing materials, at
Havells is the first Indian electrical
company to manufacture CFL with Pill
With help of pill dosing technology Havells
have achieved mercury content of just 0.5
Most of the CFL manufacturers worldwide use liquid
It is extremely difficult to limit the weight of liquid
In PDT, amalgamated mercury pills are used instead of
liquid mercury. Precise and controlled amount of
mercury is thus filled in CFLs
CFLs may pose an added health risk due to
the ultraviolet and blue light emitted. This
radiation could aggravate symptoms in people
who already suffer skin conditions that make
them exceptionally sensitive to light.
(Source: European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging
and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) in 2008 )