Autism Watch: 2007

No, don’t buy that lightbulb!

Posted on: May 29, 2008

I was standing in the checkout line of Lowe’s last night, in the throes of a migraine that was only growing worse, when the people in line behind me slapped down some things onto the counter that we were still occupying.  I looked down and saw the first item was a triple-pack of those spiral-y know, those mercury-ridden things that may save some energy but could expose you to a neurological hazard? I turned to dh, and asked him what he thought the man would do if I told him about the problems with those things? Dh looked at me thinking I was kidding, and reached for the debit card slider. Louder than necessary, if I’d just been talking to dh, I said “Don’t knock their bulbs over — might have to call HAZMAT.” Dh either really didn’t hear me, or is getting used to me, or agreed with my passive-aggressive public service announcements. Someone has to tell these people, right?

We are trying to go green, in some regards. We’ve started very internally — a safer home environment by way of stainless steel cookware (no Teflon), not heating in plastic, safer cleaning products — but those lightbulbs will never find their way in here. Not only can they be unsafe when broken, but they are also reported to contribute to seizures, and we have a daughter with seizure disorder.

It’s great that a product to save energy is now becoming more affordable and available, but people need to be aware that you can’t just throw these things in the trash. They have special requirements for disposal, and you can’t just pick up the pieces or vacuum them up when you break them. At what cost are we saving energy?

10 Responses to "No, don’t buy that lightbulb!"

I didn’t know you couldn’t throw them in the trash = I’ll have to do my homework better.
Best wishes

I don’t like those lights, anyway. The color they cast irritates me.

I’ve read a bit on your site today. Wish you well with your especially challenged child.

Thanks for the “illuminating” post! (sorry, pun intended)–I didn’t know how toxic those bulbs were! I only knew vaguely that they were bad for those plagued with EI/EMF sensitivity.
Thanks for the comment over at my blog!

1 CFL contains only 3 mg of mercury. Manual thermostats contain 3,000 mg of mercury. A mercury thermometer contains 500. Please don’t discourage people from using CFLs. The pros favor the cons in all aspects.

How many manual thermostats get disposed of yearly, or dropped/broken in a house? We have a choice when it comes to lightbulbs even if most people don’t realize they do with thermostats. When CFLs start piling up in landfills, and we’re all exposed to mercury in the air, it won’t be a pretty picture. People need to know that CFLs aren’t safe if broken and cannot be just trashed, nor will vacuuming them up or touching broken bulbs be safe. There are also reports about contributing to migraines and/or seizures. In my book, none of those outweigh their energy-saving capability.

Also, thermostats *may* have mercury — not all of them. (They average 3 grams of mercury. Some have less.) There are also other kinds of thermostats, like the non-mercury electronic kind in my home and many, many new homes. A fever thermometer has 1 gram inside; many years ago, it was recommended people don’t touch them when they’re broken. That’s only 1/3 of what’s in the average mercury thermostat, so you can see where I’m going in that no amount of mercury is deemed safe.

Mercury can pose damage to the central nervous system/neurological system if enough gets into someone’s body. Problem is, “enough” is relative — size, age, genetic pre-disposition, etc. If a toxin can be kept out of a home, why not do it?

That’s the beauty of sharing our feelings — we have to also rely on people to make their own decisions, so in the end, I can state my feelings but it’s a reader’s responsibility whether or not to research more or not buy a CFL. 😉 I can just hope that people will be careful with them so they aren’t exposing their children to something that could damage them all in the name of saving energy. The health of children and all humans should come first.

Ironically, compact fluorescent bulbs are responsible for less mercury contamination than the incandescent bulbs they replaced, even though incandescents don’t contain any mercury. The highest source of mercury in America’s air and water results from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, at utilities that supply electricity. Since a compact fluorescent bulb uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb, and lasts at least six times longer, it is responsible for far less mercury pollution in the long run. A coal-burning power plant will emit four times more mercury to produce the electricity for an incandescent bulb than for a compact fluorescent.

Look beyond the bulb…

When mercury leaves a coal stack it is in vapor form, and a combination of raw metal, oxide, chloride, sulfide, etc. Once the hot gases cool down, the vapors tend to plate out or “condense” on the ultra fine particles of fly ash that are co-suspended in the stack gases. Some of these particles are directly respirable and relatively heavy, settling down within a few hundred miles of the emission point: what EPA calls “hotspots”. If homes are downwind people in the hotspots are continually exposed. Other forms of mercury travel farther and precipitate to the ground with rain or as dust-fall. Once on the ground, mercury moves with runoff, and recharges groundwater. Landfill leachate, on the other hand, moves at rates less than a tenth of an inch a day,unlikely to catch anyones’ lungs by surprise or impact drinking water which must meet maximum concentration standards. No matter what the release route, however, with mercury there is no “away”. Dispersion ultimately leads to bioconcentration: that,s why fluorescent bulbs are better.

I appreciate your explanation, really. Sometimes the hype out there doesn’t leave much room/time for the details that you’ve shared, and I’m sure it’s helped others understand the technicalities, too. Maybe it’s selfish, maybe not, but I still won’t be buying them — if my little guy throws something and it breaks, I can’t afford that, financially or health-wise.

I was reading about mercury emissions a while back, and the autism rates being higher in some areas surrounding the plants. Scary stuff, and it doesn’t seem there’s a good solution anywhere that helps both consumers and the environment itself. Keep sharing your info, it’s good to see all the perspectives!

Super information: will come back soon

This an Excellent post, I will be sure to save this in my Clipmarks account. Have a awesome evening.

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