Well, we switched to energy saving light bulbs to save energy, we are anyway forced to in Europe by legislation. What is not so well-known is that energy-saving light bulbs (also called compact fluorescent light bulbs or CFLs) contain MERCURY that is released when accidentally broken. You can easily break a bulp at home having children (table lamp falls, a ball breaks a light bulb etc.). I learned from my parents who visited recently about the mercury content (it seems that in Germany the issue is better known) and then I started researching. I spoke with several people and no one knew that broken light bulbs are a great danger to our health and that used bulbs are hazardous waste to be recycled properly.
The fact is that the CFL bulb that breaks in your home is a big health hazard for your children, your pets and the rest of the family. There are instructions how to act in case of breakage, but I doubt many people know about it and take the necessary measures. So I decided to write this post, to share information and precautions and to make you take conscious purchasing decisions.
In case of breakage of a CFL, the following steps are recommend:
These are the alternative energy-saving light bulbs:
- Halogen bulbs consume half the energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- CFL bulbs (Compact Fluorescent) use about 5 times less energy, and have a longer life, but contain MERCURY, which is a concern for your home and the environment as the mercury from lamps may be released in landfills and waste incinerators and contribute to air and water pollution.
- LED bulbs: the best technology available, not harmful to health. They consume about 8 times less energy than traditional bulbs and have a much larger life than any of the other alternatives, but they are more expensive. It seems to me the best solution as it ends up being the most cost effective alternative in the long run and above all the less contaminating.
Did you know that you have to take the used bulbs as hazardous waste to a recycling center? If you throw one of these bulbs in the normal garbage, it will break and release the mercury. Mercury cannot be destroyed. This mercury goes to ground, air, water and finally in some way or another back to us… Did you know this and did you know the precautions what to do in case of a broken compact fluorescent? I do not want to dive more into the topic, but also take into account that most CFLs are produced in Asia with low security standards and workers and areas are frequently intoxicated. Share your opinion with me!
I had a look at packaging of various of CFL bulbs and there were some signs I could not decifer, but not even a hint of information regarding the danger it presents and the precautions to take…
If you are more interested in the topic (VERY eye-opening, I tell you), you can watch this documentary:
Toxic Light – The Dark Side of Energy Saving Bulbs
I would also like to inform you what tuna has to do with energy-saving light bulbs… Tuna and other oily fish (especially the larger species) contain dissolved mercury in their fat which is the consequence of environmental pollution and therefore its consumption is not recommended during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Children should not eat much oily fish either.
When I was pregnant with the twins eight years ago eating oily fish was still recommended for its beneficial properties. Just these beneficial fats dissolve methyl-mercury and now this health hazard has been known for a few years. When I was pregnant with Stella I did not eat tuna and other oily fish (being a susi-addict…) and so far I have not eaten it again, because I still breastfeed.
The guidelines are: Women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid consumption of tuna and other oily fish. Children under 3 years must not eat tuna, shark or swordfish either. Children between 3 and 12 should limit consumption of such fish to 50 grams per week or 100 grams every fortnight. They must also not consume any other fish of this category in the same week. See the recommendation regarding oily fish consumption of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA here.