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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mercury? In environmentally friendly compact flourescents?

This is currently one of the top stories on Yahoo.
There's an old joke about the number of people it takes to change a light bulb. But because the newer energy-efficient kinds contain tiny amounts of mercury, the hard part is getting rid of them when they burn out.

Mercury is poisonous, but it's also a necessary part of most compact fluorescent bulbs, the kind that environmentalists and some governments are pushing as a way to cut energy use.

With an estimated 150 million CFLs sold in the United States in 2006 and with Wal-Mart alone hoping to sell 100 million this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried that most are ending up in garbage dumps.
U.S. regulators, manufacturers and environmentalists note that, because CFLs require less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, they reduce overall mercury in the atmosphere by cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants.

But some of the mercury emitted from landfills is in the form of vaporous methyl-mercury, which can get into the food chain more readily than inorganic elemental mercury released directly from a broken bulb or even coal-fired power plants, according to government scientist Steve Lindberg.

"Disposal of any mercury-contaminated material in landfills is absolutely alarming to me," said Lindberg, emeritus fellow of the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Interesting. But I think Aaron at Subject to Change was on to this quite a while ago.
The picture above is of flourescent light bulbs, the kind you buy to save energy. One reason you're supposed to save energy is to reduce power plant emissions. Emissions from coal power plants are known to contain small amounts of mercury.

So, follow me on this circular logic. In order to reduce mercury emissions at point sources, we spread the deadly chemical out across the map by placing it directly in your home?

At the power plant, emission controls remove the mercury from the plant exhaust. These controls are regulated, monitored, tested, and continually improved. In your home, do you have a mercury abatement expert? No? Surprise, it's you.
Which just goes to prove that if you read Aaron more, you'll be smarter and healthier.