If your light bulb breaks — contact the EPA immediately!

September 06, 2011
Volume 08    |   Issue 37

I didn’t win any popularity contests when I wrote about the dangers of the energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in the July issue of my newsletter. In this article, available on my website, I explained why incandescent bulbs are much safer and should be the preferred bulbs – not CFLs. Protecting your health is more important than saving energy.

Now a study published in Environmental Engineering Science journal (July 2011) backs up my concerns about these new bulbs. As they become the most widely used sources of light in the world, some of them are going to break. And a broken CFL releases toxic mercury vapor for weeks or even months.

It’s true that there is very little mercury in a single CFL. This is why they’re not considered to be hazardous waste by the EPA. But they are. Over time, the total amount of mercury vapor from a single broken CFL can be higher than the amount deemed safe by the EPA. And many CFLs will break.

And, by the way, the EPA is wrong in this designation. Any amount of mercury is toxic. What’s more, this heavy metal, known to contribute to neurological problems, is difficult to get out of your body. Most oral detoxification formulas are ineffective. The most effective one I know of with good science behind it is PectaSol Chelation Complex.

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Just how much mercury is in a CFL? No one knows. Two researchers out of Jackson State University in Mississippi tested four wattages from eight brands. The amount of mercury varied considerably. But as I explained in my article, it takes the mercury in just 40 CFLs to contaminate a 40-acre lake. Just how many burned-out CFLs will people throw in the trash and crush in a garbage dump? And how many people will reach for a broom to sweep up a broken CFL and breathe in toxic mercury fumes? Even one is one too many.

If you’re using CFLs, handle them with care and try not to break them. Contact the EPA at www.epa.gov/cfl/CFL_brochure.pdf and print out this important information. Keep it with your spare light bulbs and follow its recommendations to the letter if one of your bulbs breaks. And never put a burned out CFL in the trash. Recycle it at designated stores.

CFLs do save energy, but at a high cost to your health unless they’re handled properly. You may want to stock up on incandescent bulbs while you can. By the end of this year, 100 watt bulbs will be unavailable, with lower wattage bulbs following in another year. That’s what I’ve done.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Yadong Li, Li Jin. Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps. Environmental Engineering Science, 2011; 110705072037001 DOI: 10.1089/ees.2011.0027

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