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    Mercury and CFLs – What is the Truth About This Issue?

    By Mark Schauss | February 15, 2008

    I have seen arguements on both sides of the issue when it comes to mercury and compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFLs contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal whereas a incandescent bulb contains none. If you look at it that way, on face value, there is no way you should use a CFL. But that isn’t the whole story.

    Yes, the bulbs when used up or broken, need to be disposed of differently than incandescents. You can go to Lamp Recycle which is a resource for any light bulb (“lamp”) user seeking details on recycling spent mercury-containing lamps. Still, there is a very good reason why using a CFL actually cuts down on the amount of mercury being dumped into the environment.

    According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, here is the reason why CFLs lower mercury dumping into the environment:

    “CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, so they cannot be thrown out in the trash (see the related links for disposal information). However, the mercury in CFLs represents a much less significant environmental hazard than incandescent bulbs because CFLs require much less electricity, and more than half of our nation’s electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants-the largest U.S. source of mercury emissions.
    In other words, the average coal-fired power plant emits only 3.2 milligrams of mercury for each CFL running six hours per day for five years, but emits nearly 15 milligrams of mercury for an incandescent bulb running the same amount of time, according to UCS research. The difference far exceeds the approximately five milligrams present inside a CFL. Properly disposing of CFLs ensures the mercury in them remains contained.”

    Another reason to use CFLs is that by using less energy, if everyone in America were to swap one bulb, it would be the equivalent of removing 800,000 cars from the roads. Less, benzene, toluene, and other greenhouse gases would be lowered significantly. At the Schauss House, we have already replaced about a dozen incandescents with CFLs. Also, my Rotary club has committed $1,000 to helping charter schools, non-profits and other deserving community based organizations switch as well.

    Topics: Environment, heavy metals, Mercury, Toxicity | 1 Comment »

    One Response to “Mercury and CFLs – What is the Truth About This Issue?”

    1. Mercury Free Partnership Says:
      September 14th, 2009 at 1:19 pm


      Communities and Individuals Form Coalition Focused on Mercury Reduction within
      Broad Environmental Policy

      September 9, 2009—The Mercury Free Partnership has developed a draft of legislation which would reduce 90% of harmful mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, the largest emitter of mercury in the United States. This draft, called the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009, would target coal-fired plants which emit more than 100,000 pounds of mercury into the air each year. In fact, the EPA estimates that about 250 pounds of mercury are currently pumped out of U.S. coal-fired plants into the atmosphere every single day, contaminating our nation’s air and water supplies. Contamination not only poses a multitude of health risks to extremely vulnerable citizens, but it also significantly affects the economic interests of related industries. This is an important initiative because so much attention has been focused on global climate change; what has to be realized is that immediate mercury reduction alone would significantly enhance environmental and health benefits in our world. The purpose of this draft is to initiate dialogue with all concerned stakeholders in order to develop a finalized piece of legislation.
      The Mercury Free Partnership believes that the new administration will be taking the necessary steps to curb various industrial emissions and ensure that citizens are protected from many harmful chemicals produced by the market. To make certain that mercury emissions are not swept under the rug in this crucial time period, the Mercury Free Partnership will focus on engaging Congress to work on delivering sensible mercury reduction legislation in the coming session. This can be done with new green technologies that will save lives, create jobs and build momentum for comprehensive environmental change.
      The Proposed Legislative Principles of the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009
      The key elements of the proposal are as follows:
      • Phased reductions that are achievable by utilities versus one hard standard.
      • 80% of capture inlet mercury by 2012 (a level that can be met with current technology).
      • 90% of capture inlet mercury by 2015.
      • Flexible monitoring systems.
      • Excess emissions penalties of $50,000 for each pound of mercury emitted over the limit.
      These points show how the Mercury Reduction Act will deal directly with the problem of mercury, and will do so in an immediate manner. According to Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, more focus is needed on particular legislation: “While we recognize the desire to also tackle the broader air issues, we fear that those issues will get bogged down in partisan wrangling, or most likely litigation, and we will end up with years more of pollution impacting our community.” The Mercury Reduction Act will serve as interim bridge to current legislation, providing one national standard for mercury reduction, while providing measureable, achievable reductions of mercury from coal-fired plants. Most importantly, the MRA provides a significant environmental benefit in an area not addressed by larger climate change legislation moving through Congress: mercury reduction.
      Mercury emissions are a major health issue with serious financial impact, but technology exists today that can clean up to 90% of airborne mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.
      There are many effective technologies to reduce mercury. One such technology is called Activated Carbon Injection (ACI). It has been found to reduce 90% of the mercury emissions from waste incinerators. A small amount of activated carbon is injected into the plant ductwork where it captures the gaseous mercury and then is removed along with the plant’s fly ash in particulate collectors. This highly effective environmental solution is very cost-effective, costing only about $1 per month per residential customer for 90% reductions according to a detailed 2004 study by the National Wildlife Federation, and significant cost reductions have been made since then.
      Recent evaluations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have confirmed that the technology to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by up to 90% percent exists. In testimony submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, John B. Stephenson, Director of Natural Resources & Environment at the GAO, explains how sorbent injection systems have demonstrated the ability to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants anywhere from 80 to 90%.
      How to Support the Mercury Free Partnership and the Mercury Reduction Act of 2009
      The Mercury Free Partnership is looking to partner with a broad base of individuals and organizations, as no one organization or individual can tackle the daunting task of environmental/health protection alone. It has already received the support of a broad cross-section of environmental, community and science-based groups, including a majority of utilities in key coal-fired utility states. Indications of support have been shown from the EPA, the Obama administration, as well as a large number of congressional members from key regions of the U.S. The Mercury Free Partnership has the specialized and localized knowledge needed to fully inform state and national policymakers as they consider impending legislation.
      The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and more specifically the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, oversees such legislation. In addition to contacting the Mercury Free Partnership, you can contact the office of Rick Boucher (VA-9) directly at:
      Congressman Rick Boucher
      2187 Rayburn House Office Building
      Washington, D.C. 20515

      For more information on this issue, please visit http://www.mercuryfreepartnership.org.
      The Mercury Free Partnership is a group of organizations, non-profits, and green businesses that are dedicated to enacting sensible and comprehensive Mercury reduction legislation in the 2009 U.S. Congressional session. Working collectively with all stakeholders, the utility industry, medical and advocacy groups and clean coal industries we believe we can achieve our goal of removing significant amounts of Mercury from the environment while maintaining essential energy and financial areas of our economy.
      Contact: Jason Sabo, Mercury Free Partnership, 877-603-2337 or info@mercuryfreepartnership.org