Addressing Mercury Concerns about Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Many people are hesitant to switch to energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs because of concerns that they contain mercury. Although this is a true statement, the amount of mercury is minimal and hardly a cause for concern. Fluorescent bulbs contain an average of 4 mg of mercury that is sealed within the tubing of the bulb. In comparison, old-fashioned mercury thermometers contained about 500 mg of mercury. In other words, it would take 125 fluorescent bulbs to produce the amount of mercury that was used in one old thermometer, making this amount of mercury virtually negligible.

Nevertheless, mercury is essential to the functioning of the bulb. It is what enables the bulb to be such an energy-efficient source of light. No mercury is released when the bulb is in use and, so long as the fluorescent bulb remains unbroken, no mercury is ever released. Due to consumer concerns, however, manufacturers of fluorescent bulbs have reduced the amount of mercury used by at least 20% over the last several years. In fact, some fluorescent bulbs on the market today contain only 1 mg of mercury.

If consumers are concerned about mercury emissions in the environment, fluorescent bulbs are still a better alternative than incandescent bulbs. In the United States, electricity use is the primary source of mercury emission. Because fluorescent bulbs use significantly less electricity than incandescent light, fluorescent light bulbs actually reduce the amount of mercury in the environment, rather than increase it.

Obviously, caution should be exercised when handling any objects that contain glass, and fluorescent light bulbs are no exception. If a fluorescent light bulb should break, everyone (including pets) should leave the room for 10 minutes, and either a door or window to the outside should be opened. You should also turn off the AC or heat in order to keep air from circulating throughout the home. This will enable any mercury vapors to dissipate. Clean up the broken glass and any visible powder, but avoid contact with bare skin. Then, place all materials in a sealed container and put them outside in a trash can until they can be disposed of properly. Lastly, leave the AC/heat off for a few hours to continue to air out the room where the break occurred.

In reality, most people have greater exposure to mercury from eating fish than they do from using fluorescent light bulbs. With common sense and a little caution in the event of an accident, consumers can enjoy the benefits of fluorescent light bulbs without worrying about danger from mercury exposure.

Light Bulbs

Light Bulbs

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