By Jakob Barry, Networx
If I asked you to draw a symbol representing an idea or thought it’s a good chance you’ll sketch a light bulb — specifically, the incandescent model. Well, hold on to that image because as part of the US government’s Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 the incandescent bulb will be phased out by 2012. The Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL), which is already being used around the globe and has a different look, will take its place as the bulb of the future.
Unlike incandescent bulbs, the benefits of CFLs are clear: they include a much longer life, use far less electricity, and emit little heat. However, overshadowing the advantages are several important health concerns being raised not just in the US but around the world.
CFLs contain mercury. Is it dangerous?
On average CFLs contain abut four milligrams of mercury, a small trace of the highly toxic substance that is extremely hazardous when digested or inhaled. By comparison older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams, which is equal to the mercury in over 100 CFLs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilling more than a thermometer’s worth but less than two tablespoons (one pound) necessitates a call to your local health or environmental agency. Anything more and that and the National Response Center (NRC) must be notified immediately. So what does this mean for a CFL that smashed in your house? It’s a serious problem but not life threatening if handled properly. The immediate aftermath seems to be the most critical in terms of controlling contamination. Small children, pregnant woman, and pets are the most at risk. In the event a bulb breaks the EPA has a step by step list of what to do.
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