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Earth Power

Questions Arising On Mercury In Compact Fluorescents 560

Posted by kdawson
from the now-they-tell-us dept.
Patchw0rk F0g sends in an article from MSNBC on how some environmentalists are having second thoughts on compact fluorescent bulbs. Their relative energy efficiency is unquestioned. The problem is the mercury — enough in one bulb to contaminate 1,000 gallons of water, even in newer low-mercury bulbs. The EPA has an 11-step cleanup process to follow when you break a CFL in your home. The specialized recycling facilities that are needed are thin on the ground — about one per county in California, one of seven states where it is illegal to dispose of CFLs in the general waste stream.
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Questions Arising On Mercury In Compact Fluorescents

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  • LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhsx (458600) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:35PM (#22812834)
    I really think LED will be the future of lighting in most situations. It's a long-lasting, mercury-free lightsource that can be targeted to any frequency. We are already seeing them used in Grow Light applications and other such things all the time. I think it will be a great day when we start seeing LED light installations just about everywhere we are using traditional lights today.
    • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:42PM (#22812914) Journal

      I really think LED will be the future of lighting in most situations. It's a long-lasting, mercury-free lightsource that can be targeted to any frequency. We are already seeing them used in Grow Light applications and other such things all the time. I think it will be a great day when we start seeing LED light installations just about everywhere we are using traditional lights today.
      I agree. When I can buy a LED light that will put off as much light as my current 60 watt bulbs (with good color), I'll replace every light in my house with them!
      • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:35PM (#22813520) Homepage Journal
        When I can buy a LED light that will put off as much light as my current 60 watt bulbs

        For me, I'd add in a cost justification as well. I'll do it when they reach a cost that justifies their purchase over a incandescent or CFL bulb.

        LED house lights are a lot like electric cars...

        They're just too expensive at the necessary light levels for a home. Flashlights, being both dimmer on average and portable w/limited power supplies are a different justification.

        For the disposal thing, I'd say to allow them into recycling trash. At the very least, properly manufactured CFLs should drop the number of bulbs tossed in the trash by a factor of 10-20.
        • by twitter (104583) * on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:34PM (#22815004) Homepage Journal

          If your electricity comes from coal, the power saved by a CFB prevents a greater amount of heavy metals (including mercury) from being dumped into the air, water and ground downwind of the coal plant. I like eating fish, how about you? This argument won me over, I hope it was not a lie designed to sell me a bunch of expensive light bulbs.

          The service life of CFBs and regular bulbs makes me suspicious. CFBs do not last much longer than incandescent bulbs used to. I've had 2 of 12 burn out over a year or so despite the 5 year promise on the box. Incandescent bulbs used to be that good and halogen incandescent bulbs still last longer than CFBs. Ask yourself when the last time you changed your car headlights was.

          • by visigoth (43030) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:20AM (#22815792)

            The service life of CFBs and regular bulbs makes me suspicious. CFBs do not last much longer than incandescent bulbs used to. I've had 2 of 12 burn out over a year or so despite the 5 year promise on the box. Incandescent bulbs used to be that good and halogen incandescent bulbs still last longer than CFBs. Ask yourself when the last time you changed your car headlights was.

            There are big quality differences between manufacturers. I converted much of my home lighting to CFBs when they first appeared several years ago; all of the GE or Philips bulbs are still burning 6-7 years later (including a couple I've left on continuously), whereas all of the 'Feit Electric' bulbs (a brand sold at Costco in my state) burned out within a year or so.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by falconwolf (725481)

              The service life of CFBs and regular bulbs makes me suspicious. CFBs do not last much longer than incandescent bulbs used to. I've had 2 of 12 burn out over a year or so despite the 5 year promise on the box. Incandescent bulbs used to be that good and halogen incandescent bulbs still last longer than CFBs. Ask yourself when the last time you changed your car headlights was.

              There are big quality differences between manufacturers. I converted much of my home lighting to CFBs when they first appeared seve

          • I agree with Twitter. Quote: "If your electricity comes from coal, the power saved by a CFB prevents a greater amount of heavy metals (including mercury) from being dumped into the air, water and ground downwind of the coal plant."

            This is not the first time a Slashdot article has misled us about mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs. See this comment from a year ago: Misleading article [slashdot.org]. Quote from the second link in that comment: "China is also the world's largest emitter of mercury..." China's coal-fired plants emit TONS of mercury, and the mercury travels everywhere.

            Is someone at Slashdot paid to post these articles, to sell LED or other lights? Or is it just ignorance?
      • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Informative)

        by EvilIdler (21087) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:38PM (#22813568)
        I was testing LEDs today, and one in particular impressed me. It lit up my (very dark) cave
        like daylight. Not blue, not yellow. It has 36 LEDs dotted around it, so it isn't in the
        classic bulb form.

        This is a similar one (Chinese products; could be countless copies):
        http://evilidler.webofcrafts.net/S660E27-36D.jpg [webofcrafts.net]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Belial6 (794905)
          What was the cost?

          How many watts does it pull?

          What sized incandescent would you compare it to?
          • Re:LED lighting (Score:4, Informative)

            by EvilIdler (21087) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:01AM (#22816056)
            It pulls 4W, costs a bunch and lights up better than the 60W I use for outdoor lighting.
            The price list I've seen has them near $6 apiece (bulk purchase). After all the
            middle-men have taken their cuts, expect those six dollars to reach double digits.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jollyreaper (513215)

          I was testing LEDs today, and one in particular impressed me. It lit up my (very dark) cave
          like daylight. Not blue, not yellow. It has 36 LEDs dotted around it, so it isn't in the
          classic bulb form.

          This is a similar one (Chinese products; could be countless copies):
          http://evilidler.webofcrafts.net/S660E27-36D.jpg [webofcrafts.net] [webofcrafts.net]

          Wow, that looks like a Dalek sex toy. Let's not give them any ideas.

    • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kesuki (321456) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:53PM (#22813050) Journal
      LEDs are the best and worst thing to happen to the lighting industry.

      On the one hand, they're Extremely bright for the electricity consumed, very good, they can come in any wavelength of color, for multicolored lights like Christmas lights, or for 'party bulbs' that with a little circuitry could produce a flashing swirl of rainbow colored light by switching various LEDS off and on... They're very small, and that means you can make any variety of decorator bulb configurations...

      On the other hand, they NEVER BURN OUT. the MTBF on a LED is 300,000+ hours http://www.iddaerospace.com/design_development/faq_transition_flight_deck.htm [iddaerospace.com]

      that's over 1305% longer than Compact Fluorescent Bulbs... in truth a LED can easily last 500,000 hours of use, the MTBF is just an estimate.... and forget them burning out from being switched on and off, Myth busters tried to do it, they tested every array of lighting combinations, and the LED array was happily blinking away 3 months later, when they finally pulled the plug on trying to get them to burn out from switching them on and off...

      So, now what do you do? The government assumes that by 2012 LEDs will use 1/3 the watts per lumen VS Compact fluorescent bulbs... so it's not going to take environmentalists long to promote the usage of LED lighting...

      So LEDS are a double edged sword for the lighting industry, on the one hand they're the best of the best for the environment, but on the other hand there is no turnover of bulbs. you'll be giving the LED bulbs to your grandkids before they have to replace them... For instance if you use a light 3 hours a day it will last statistically nearly 274 years. if like wal-mart you run the bulb 24/7/365 the bulbs will last an average of 34.2 years. 34.2 years.... yeah you might forget how to change a light bulb, once you get used to LEDs.
      • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by glavenoid (636808) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:00PM (#22813136) Journal
        I'd much rather support the LED industry rather than Fluorescent lighting, simply for the lighting quality. Some of us can not physically handle fluorescent lighting...
        • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Informative)

          by jrumney (197329) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:17PM (#22813320) Homepage
          If you're talking about the unnatural color balance, then LEDs are no better than fluorescents. If you're talking about the flicker, then you are probably basing your experience on old fluorescent tube fittings that use a magnetic ballast at mains frequency (50-60Hz). Modern compact fluorescent bulbs use a high frequency electronic ballast that eliminates flicker completely.
          • LED's blink too! (Score:3, Interesting)

            by thule (9041)
            People will probably complain that a lot of those LED's have circuits that cause them to blink. Any LED with a dimmer blinks.
            • Re:LED's blink too! (Score:5, Informative)

              by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:37PM (#22813550) Homepage
              PWM (Pulse Width Modulation - Highly efficient brightness control) can go at 200khz or more.

              No matter how much you whine, you cannot see that.
              If you can, then your only deluding yourself that you can.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                Can but don't. I'm starting to see more and more cars on the road with LED taillights that are 'dimmed' by being 1% on, about 100 microseconds every 10 milliseconds. My eyes are *extremely* sensitive to flicker, and it drives me nuts.
                • Re:LED's blink too! (Score:5, Informative)

                  by m85476585 (884822) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:46PM (#22814186)
                  100 microseconds every 10 miliseconds is only 100Hz. I'm not sure why car makers use such a low frequency, but I can see it as well and it is kind of distracting. I can also see colors in DLP projectors and TVs if I move my eyes quickly enough.

                  I'm using a homemade LED light as a desk lamp right now, and I can't see any flicker. The PWM chip controlling the voltage is running at around 300KHz, and I can dim it all the way to zero without any flickering. Even if it was running at a lower frequency, the filter capacitor is smoothing the voltage.

                  I used a 95 lumen Luxeon Rebel Star for the LED (but you can get up to 180 lumens with no additional power used) and a MAX774 for the PWM. The total cost was under $40, and it is at least as bright as a 15W halogen light. I took the circuit from a Maxim application note [maxim-ic.com].
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by GregPK (991973)
                Human eyes can see up to around 250hrtz with LED. Its a rare thing though. Greatly reduced once you get up past 200 or more.
          • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Informative)

            by ChrisMaple (607946) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:34PM (#22814088)
            Single LEDs without phosphor coating are moderately narrowband. Phosphor-coated LEDs can have a smooth, broad spectrum like daylight, as can a combined assortment of LED colors. Varying the chemistry of LEDs allows them to be tuned to any visible peak wavelength.
        • Re:LED lighting (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nbert (785663) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:05PM (#22814320) Homepage Journal
          I never understood why there's no popular version featuring a slightly yellow coloration. It's a very simple solution to a very simple problem. Of course it would cost some efficiency, but still better if it makes more people switch from ordinary bulbs.

          Right now I only use fluorescent bulbs in the basement and some places where everybody forgets to turn the light off - usually places where it doesn't matter what someone/something looks like. But still I have around 2000 W of light running in the evenings, even though my house isn't really a big place. I just love my old 80's halogen lamp pointing to the ceiling, thereby providing warm, indirect light in the entire room. This lamp sucks 1000 W alone. I would replace it if it wasn't for the fact that no other light source is able to fill this particular room with light in a better way (better as in more pleasing to the eye). I don't blame LED or fluorescent for not being able to provide similar light - it's simply because they work differently than halogen or normal light bulbs. But I think the manufacturers could do a lot more to make their products resemble the warmth and density of traditional electric light-sources. Heck even bulbs heating carbon wires are still available on the market - they were state of the art over hundred years ago and some people still buy them for their friendly red glow. They were replaced by carbon wires because they were easier to manufacture and way more efficient.
          • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Informative)

            by GregPK (991973) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:42PM (#22814558)
            You might have to buy a special fixture to handle it... But, I'd reccomend finding a circline CFL or a really bright CFL from www.buylighting.com They got a 100watt CFL there. Puts out around 6000 lumens of light in the warm 2700k color. Still not quite the same as the 22000 lumens that a halogen will put out. But, it should be more than bright enough to light a room. If all else fails get 2 or 3 of them. You'll be pumping out the same light for 1/3 the price in power.

            Also, 1000w bulbs only last about 2000 hours compared to 10,000 hours for the CFL.

            Think about how much that Halogen costs you in power...

            At california prices you'd be paying at minimum about .20 an hour to use it. If its in a room thats used frequently you are probably paying about 10 bucks a month to use it. The price of a typical Satellite radio service.
      • by drooling-dog (189103) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:06PM (#22813210)
        No problem; they'll just do what the printer ink cartridge manufacturers do: Build in a chip that commits suicide after some specified period of time. That could be in hours of operation, or even calendar time. In the latter case, you're virtually renting them.
        • by apoc.famine (621563) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (enimaf.copa)> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:35PM (#22813530) Homepage Journal
          All it takes is 1 company not to do this, and the rest of those who do are screwed. When you buy a "bulb" every 6 months, you'll ask me what kind I buy when I tell you that I've bought one in my entire life.

          Additionally, a lot of people are looking at LEDs like regular lights. They are not. They can be flexible, shock resistant, and sealed tight. They are ideal for putting light in places where we've never been able to put bulbs before. In floors. In counters. In sinks. In walkways. In door frames. As desk surfaces. You can make your slightly raised door sills out of a low-brightness LED so that they are visible to people going through. These aren't things you will ever want to replace. While very energy efficient, I think that large-scale LED production will significantly change how we light things, and those changes will necessitate "bulbs" that never burn out.

          Of course, there will still be LED "bulbs" shaped like light bulbs, which fit into a standard socket. And I'm sure that some brilliant company will do as you say, and program in death. But the strips of "TruSun Dimmable"(tm) LEDs you have installed around the perimeter of your room when you re-do the ceiling won't have this "feature". They will be there for your grandkids to see.
      • the common wisdom (Score:4, Interesting)

        by slew (2918) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:18PM (#22813332)
        I doubt there will be any real problems for the lighting industry...


        You could make the same argument about low-flow showerheads or toilets or plumbing fixtures in general (how long to those last).


        People still remodel, new houses are built, old houses are destroyed, people break them, someone will come up with a new lighting mechanism (maybe that aluminum foil micro plasma lighting [physorg.com] will become popular), and people will go through another replacement cycle.

      • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mh1997 (1065630) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:26PM (#22813416)

        The MTBF is just an estimate.
        No, the MTBF is a Mean, and is very predictable. If it were an estimate it would be the ETBF.
        • Re:LED lighting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by OldAndSlow (528779) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:37PM (#22815530)
          Sorry, 300,000 hour MTBF is certainly an estimate. 300,000 / 24 *365 = 34+ years. So the only way this is a measured MTBF is if someone lit off a batch of them in 1973, and they all failed within a few months of each other late last year.

          MTBFs get estimated all the time. MTBFs of this size are almost always estimates.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jeffkjo1 (663413)
        So LEDS are a double edged sword for the lighting industry, on the one hand they're the best of the best for the environment, but on the other hand there is no turnover of bulbs. you'll be giving the LED bulbs to your grandkids before they have to replace them...

        Isn't this almost the case currently with fluorescent light bulbs? The average fluorescent light bulbs is supposed to last seven years, as compared to a duration of just several months for an incandescent bulb. When fluorescents became widely av
        • Re:LED lighting (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:43PM (#22814570)
          I would bet that they make more money on the CFLs. Walmart sells a 6-pack of GE 60-watt replacement CFLs for $9.88 ($1.65/bulb). Meanwhile, the traditional GE bulbs cost around $0.50. So, yeah, assuming that on average you were buying 6 traditional bulbs and now you are only buying one, on the surface of things they are missing out on sales of $3.00 vs $1.65. On the other hand, they can now use 6x less warehouse space, 6x less shipping, 6x less shelf space at stores (no wonder Wal-Mart loves them!).

          Plus, all of the sudden maybe the GE brand name means something again. Before the CFL craze, I was buying no-name lightbulbs at Walgreens in a package of 12 for $2. That's less than $0.17 per bulb! GE was probably really worried that they would have to compete with that, which would give them only one stinking dollar of revenue for 6 bulbs! I mean, who cares how long they last when they cost so little? On the other hand, when you are making a more expensive purchase, you might even do a little research to see what kind of bulbs are the best. You might pick up GE over the no-name brand, "just to be safe".

          I think the only ones with a "net loss" are the power companies, as you are now using 5 times less electricity. That's where the cost savings is to the consumer, not in buying fewer bulbs.

          Of course, if you have electric heat, then CFLs are a folly in the winter time :)
      • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:05PM (#22813824) Journal
        Back in the long ago, streetlamps were powered by gas. Every evening, a person called a lamplighter would come and light the streetlight. (The bars sticking sideways out of lampposts were not decorative. They were there so a lamplighter could lean his ladder against them so he could climb the pole.) Every morning he would go around and extinguish the streetlights.

        Gas lights did not use an open flame for lighting (well, they did, but not for long). They used a special cloth "wick" called a mantle. This mantle glowed brightly when heated by the gas flame. Over time, the mantles would disintegrate, and new ones would have to be installed.

        Now there were two once vibrant sectors of the lighting industry that have been virtually eliminated by progress. Sure, a few thousand people lost jobs. There were better, cheaper, safer alternatives, so people used them. The same thing will happen with the incandescent bulb makers, and the fluorescent bulb makers. LEDs are a better, cheaper, safer alternative. A few thousand people will be put out of work, and once vibrant sectors of the lighting industry will fade away. Sure, a few companies will hang on, doing specialty work, but count on GE, Sylvania, Philips, and their ilk closing a lot of bulb factories in the future.
      • So called "white" LEDs are actually blue or violet LEDs that have a dab of phosphor on the chip. The phosphor eventually gets dimmer and dimmer, just like the pixels on a plasma TV screen, or the burn-in on a CRT screen. Even compact fluorescents exhibit this burn-in dimming over time, I had a number of the old U-shaped compact fluorescents with magnetic ballasts at one time, and they still worked but just weren't as bright as when new, so I changed them out for newer corkscrew fluorescents.

        I have some whit
    • by unhooked (21010) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:54PM (#22813060)
      Q: How many hazmat teams does it take to change a lightbulb?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CFD339 (795926)
        Is there an immediate life/safety threat? If not, we're going to need to set up a decon in the transition from the hot to the cold zone, and that requires at least 3 people - with their backup which makes six. You have to have at least two at a time entering the hot zone, so that's two more. You'll need someone to do incident command, a couple of medics running rehab, and of course at least two people to manage traffic control.

        If you plan to get government funds to cover the cost, you'll have to follows
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      Now that we decided Mercury is no longer so green, lets move on to LEDs.

      LEDs, one way to make them is with arsenic. Now one diode of arsenic is nothing, put billions in the dump, let the plastics rot a bit and...

      Now before we jump in this time like a mad heard of bison off a cliff, and almost ban previous source of like like Canada was almost going to do, lets think about the whole life cycle of the light source...and the end outcome before we leap.

      This isn't to say I am against LEDs, I think if we look

      • by raehl (609729)
        LEDs, one way to make them is with arsenic. Now one diode of arsenic is nothing, put billions in the dump, let the plastics rot a bit and...

        You missed the point. LEDs DO NOT GO IN THE DUMP AT ALL, because they pretty much 'never' burn out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hardburn (141468)

      LEDs are very sensitive to heat. Current fixtures for incandescent bulbs are designed to limit heat conduction, because all the heat coming off a bulb would damage the wires and probably cause a short. Although LEDs are far less heat-generating than incandescents, they still give off some and it needs to be taken away.

      Hardly an insurmountable problem, but one that keeps LEDs from being an immediate solution.

      There's also an intriguing possibility of using laser diodes for general lighting. These are even

      • Laser diodes == BAD (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:30PM (#22814058)
        > A lens can diffuse the beam, and they currently exist in red, green, and blue forms that could
        > be combined into the proper color temperature.

        That won't work. There is a good reason white LEDs aren't just tri-color LEDs without seperate leads. See the slashdot story from this weekend about the artist exploiting the monochromatic light of LEDs to produce interesting effects when illuminating paintings. If you mix primary colors to get yellow paint, paint something with it and shine a yellow LED on it you see black. Oops! Guess that is why white LEDs use a deep blue or UV LED with a fluorescent coating inside the package. A LASER diode would of course be an even more extremely monochromatic light source than a normal LED, plus the unexpected problems of illuminating ordinary scenes with coherent light.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrSteve007 (1000823)
      I just ordered up a new LED bulb on the market yesterday. It won top awards from the US Dept. of Energy last year, and is a direct replacement for in-celing can lights. 13 watt consupmtion, 50,000 hour life. It's pretty steep to swallow the cost, at $130 a pop, but for me it's replacing a 50 watt halogen that dies every 2,000 hours and cost $20 each. It'll pay off in the long run.

      http://www.wattworks.com/LED%20LR6.htm [wattworks.com]

      The problem with most LED lighting to date is that they're terrible for wide area illuminat
  • Not New News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 26199 (577806) * on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:38PM (#22812864) Homepage

    This was on the BBC [bbc.co.uk] some months ago.

    They were relatively reassuring about the health implications:

    Toxicologist Dr David Ray, from the University of Nottingham, said about 6-8mg of mercury was present in a typical low-energy bulb, which he described as a "pretty small amount". "Mercury accumulates in the body - especially the brain," he said. "The biggest danger is repeated exposure - a one off exposure is not as potentially dangerous compared to working in a light bulb factory. "If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger."

    Something to be aware of, but not hugely worrying.

    • Re:Not New News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Itninja (937614) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:55PM (#22813082) Homepage
      "If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger."
      Like when a heavy bag of groceries smashes an entire box of new CFL's in the backseat of the car while making a sudden stop? Good thing that can never happen...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by shbazjinkens (776313)

        Like when a heavy bag of groceries smashes an entire box of new CFL's in the backseat of the car while making a sudden stop? Good thing that can never happen...
        Like the ones in blister packs? This happened to me. Mercury is a heavy metal, really doubt it penetrates sealed plastic blister packs. My scissors have a hard time for that matter. I just tossed the whole pack even though 2/3 were broken. I've never seen them in boxes, probably for this reason.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          All the ones I've seen are in boxes. I think you'd have to hit them pretty hard to break them.. I've dropped a box onto a concrete floor before now without cracking it. Groceries aren't going to do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by goofy183 (451746)
        And that is why CFLs are packaged in those PITA clear blister packs. I'm sure they break during shipping and stocking as well and the repeated exposure to workers would be a big problem if the bulbs weren't in sealed packaging.
  • I'm dead (Score:5, Funny)

    by stokessd (89903) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:39PM (#22812880) Homepage
    I played with mercury as a child. We used to rub dimes on it, and push it around on a desk and i our hands. I had like 5 pounds of the stuff in a bottle, enough co contaminate the solar system if ne CFB contaminates 1000 gallons of water.

    So I'll be dying soon, anybody want to buy a low slashdot ID?

    Sheldon

    Tag this post: getoffmylawn
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Itninja (937614)
      I learned in 6th grade chemistry that touching mercury is marginally safe, but injecting it was usually a death sentence. The stuff in those CF bulbs is in powder form, so I don't know where inhaling mercury come in on that scale....
      • Re:I'm dead (Score:5, Informative)

        by cmowire (254489) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:47PM (#22812972) Homepage
        No, the mercury in a "bulb" is in liquid form..... well, liquid and vapor.

        The powder in a CF "bulb" is the phosphor, which is toxic and hazardous in an entirely different way.

        And, because basically the same stuff is in fluorescent bulbs and white LEDs, nobody wants to make a big deal out of it. :D

        Oh, and injecting mercury is not that bad. Metallic mercury is not especially dangerous, especially because your body is already equipped to excrete a reasonable amount of it. Organic mercury compounds, on the other hand, are hideously unsafe and some of them are toxic in quantities as small as a spilled drop, largely because they have an easy time crossing cell walls.
    • I played with mercury as a child. We used to rub dimes on it, and push it around on a desk and i our hands. I had like 5 pounds of the stuff in a bottle, enough co contaminate the solar system if ne CFB contaminates 1000 gallons of water.

      It's not elemental mercury that does damage, but mercury that has been included into organic molecules by other organisms that you eat, such as fish (which in turn ate smaller animals with mercury and so concentrated the environmental mercury for your inconvenience). There was a lot of talk about the evils of mercury fillings but of all the millions of people who have them, practically none of them has ever had mercury poisoning as a result - but what is the cancer risk from having epoxy resin slowly deg

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:40PM (#22812892) Journal
    is not requiring the stores that push CFL to set up a recycle system. Home Depot and Walmart are busy pushing cheap bulbs from GE/China. They claim that they will last 5-7 years. Half of mine have burned out within 3 years. I have 8 bulbs waiting to recycle. Worse, I saw a GE/Made in China bulb catch on fire. I now buy Phillips/made in mexico only bulbs, but it does not solve the problem of mercury recycle.
    • by NerveGas (168686)
      Not only that, but for "small" cf lighting (under 25 watts, if I recall), there is no requirement for power factor correction. If the cheapo companies leave it out, the inductive ballast will have a power factor of 0.5, and the power company will have to generate twice as much power as the lamp uses. That takes a big bite out of their efficiency.

      I find that I need a 23 watt CF to really equal a 60 watt light bulb. With a power factor of 0.5, the power company would need to produce 46 watts (while I'd onl
  • Migraine etc. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glavenoid (636808) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:44PM (#22812942) Journal
    For one thing, some of us have light-induced migraines. Fluorescent-lights are often a contributing factor. Whether it's the light spectrum output, the AC frequency, or some placebo, whatever, in *my* case, fluorescent lights seem to be a *major* contributing factor. I'm all for efficiency, but this case, Incandescent light is one of the few things that I have a hard time letting go. I *need* incandescent light in order to make my living... Nary that, just to survive.
  • by lancejjj (924211) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:46PM (#22812956) Homepage
    There's a much more substantial danger with asbestos. cigarette smoke. CO from your furnace, or from your attached garage. Radon. Electricity from the wall socket. And lead paint. These things seriously injure or kill thousands per year.

    And now you tell me that mercury from my breaking-lightbulbs spree will kill my family tree? Good God!

    The amount of mercury in a modern lightbulb is thousands of times less than what is found in a mercury thermometer or a thermostat. And let's not even begin to discuss the amount of mercury within traditional fluorescent bulbs and the amalgam in some fillings.
  • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:46PM (#22812964) Journal

    Questions Arising On Mercury In Compact Fluorescents
    What does Compact Florescent bulbs have to do with the planet Mercury?

  • Hatchet Job (Score:4, Informative)

    by truesaer (135079) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:47PM (#22812970) Homepage
    If you notice, this article was written by a bunch of NBC affiliates...basically one of those sensationalist stories "The Investigators" or whatever your local station calls their guys create.


    The article barely mentioned the real facts. The power production for regular light bulbs over the lifespan of a CFL generates 2-3x as much mercury as is in the CFL. They are just fine.


    Now it is a bit of a problem right now finding a place that will recycle them. Ikea is doing it, and Walmart is thinking of rolling out recycling bins in their stores. But industry needs a lot more motivation to start taking these back. Ideally most municipal recycling programs would allow the bulbs to be placed in their bins (maybe in cardboard protectors or something. A decent article would have focused on this aspect of the story, and it was again just mentioned in passing.

  • Good grief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Itchyeyes (908311) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:53PM (#22813042) Homepage
    Honestly, this is my biggest problem with the environmental movement in the US today, it's never satisfied with even the slightest amount of progress. Fossil fuels are unacceptable because they pollute, but so is wind power because it interferes with migration paths. Incandescent bulbs are inefficient but we can't use CFL's because they contain mercury. We want the fuel efficiency that diesel engines already offer but we can't buy them in the US because of sulfur emission regulation. Everything has trade-offs. Sometimes you just have to pick the lesser of the two evils and go with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JonBuck (112195)
      Trade offs? But that would mean compromise. Why should they compromise on anything? The Earth is at stake!

      Around here, we have the Sunrise Powerlink that local groups have been opposing. The state of California has mandated that utilities get 20% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2010. To that end, there will be a pair of massive new solar thermal powerplants (contracted to Stirling Energy Systems) developed out in the desert. Now, in order to get that power to market, for the sake of c
    • Re:Good grief (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:01PM (#22814308) Journal
      I was just talking about this today. I told my dad that some environmentalists are against wind power because it hurts birds. He said,"Why don't we just go back to living in caves." I said,"I think that is the idea that some of them have."
  • Look overhead (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geek2k5 (882748) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:55PM (#22813084)

    If you are in an office or school, look overhead and determine what type of lighting you have. There are a lot of places where it is fluorescent lighting in the long tube format.


    Said tubes also contain mercury. But few, if any people, seem to consider these as part of the mercury contamination controversy.


    If these tubes aren't a problem because they are disposed of properly, couldn't the CFLs be put into the same disposal chain?


    And if the tubes ARE a problem because of improper disposal, shouldn't they also be mentioned along with the CFLs?

    • Re:Look overhead (Score:4, Informative)

      by kindbud (90044) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:29PM (#22813460) Homepage
      The tubes are recycled. I used to to do that job a long time ago. Basically, you have a grinder that is fitted to a lid for a 55-gallon steel drum. The grinder has a feeder tube, you just shove the tubes into the feeder, they get ground up into the 50-gallon drum, and it is classified a solid low-level mercury waste and sent off to the reclamation facility.

      So yes, CFLs could get into the same waste stream as for the tubes. But it costs money. The party with the burned out tubes pays for it.
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @06:55PM (#22813086) Homepage
    That's news to me. I'm sure it is but you can't just write a law like that and then put it on display in a locked cabinet in some basement somewhere with a broken sewer line. You actually have to advertise it. The funny thing is I have a broken CFL in my house right now. I have it because my wife accidentally knocked it off the shelf and the packaging while shear resistant doesn't pad the bulbs at all so it broke. Since she broke it, she bought it. So now how exactly am I supposed to deal with that?! I doubt even the hazerdous waste place will take a broken bulb.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:01PM (#22813150) Homepage Journal
    ... is that the percentage of mercury in a CFL bulb is likely NEVER to make it into the water table unless they pump from the very very bottom of the water table/tank. Mercury is so heavy it automatically sinkss to the bottom of whatever is storing it with water. Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (mlgw.com) has noted this in their water treatment plants for YEARS when concern about their aquifers and mercury hit the news. It's a non-issue for the most part unless the water pumps hit so far at the bottom that they suck up mercury. This is why Memphis has some of the best aquifer water there is on the planet.
  • Do the math (Score:5, Informative)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:06PM (#22813208)
    Ladies and gentlemen, a bit of math.
    Amount of mercury in 1 CFL light bulb: 5 milligrams (source: TFA)

    Amount of energy saved by using a CFL bulb instead of incandescent, over the lifetime of the CFL:
    10,000 hours * 75 watts * 75% energy savings = 0.6 megawatt-hours
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp#Lifespan)

    Fraction of that energy that would be generated by coal-fired power plants: about 50%.
    (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html)

    Coal power plant energy savings: 0.3 megawatt-hours

    Annual emission of mercury by US coal-fired power plants: 48 tons/year in 1999
    (http://www.nescaum.org/documents/rpt031104mercury.pdf)
    Power output of US coal-fired power plants: 1,900,000 gigawatt-hours in 1999 (about the same today)

    Mercury emitted by coal plants: 48 tons / 19000000 GWh = 23 milligrams per megawatt-hour

    Power-plant mercury emissions avoided by using a CFL bulb over its lifetime:
    7 milligrams

    So it's a wash. The amount of mercury in the bulb is roughly the same as what would be emitted by a coal-burning power plant, if you stuck with incandescent bulbs.

    But the mercury in a CFL bulb is a lot easier to clean up than the stuff spewed into the atmosphere by power plants.
  • by Dr. Cody (554864) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:40PM (#22813588)
    One thing that should be remembered about the current regulations for mercury are very strict in contrast to the levels associated with deterministic effects. This is perfectly natural since the natural occurrence of mercury is in such low concentrations. In fact almost all practical problems with mercury and how to deal with it are somehow linked to the inability to accurately measure it at the concentrations it begins to harm organisms.

    Second, the speciation (division between different compounds) of mercury makes a huge difference in how the body absorbs it. The elemental form, found in old thermometers, switches and these CFL's, is practically biologically unavailable when liquid. There was a man in Taiwan who drank, IIRC, around a kilo without permanent effects. Oxidized mercury (HgCl2, Hg(NO3)2, and a few others) are also generally quite unavailable--several were used as syphilis medicine for quite some time--but led to a number of occupational hazards and poisonings. Mercury sulphide, on the other hand, is so unavailable that it's considered a "retirement path" in the mercury cycle. Among the variety of questionable Chinese medicine are "herbal balls," which have been found to contain up to 1.2 g (over a hundred CFL bulbs worth of mercury) of HgS. Finally, there are organic mercury compounds which are extremely toxic, but these are irrelevant except when they are produced by man in large quantities (though not necessarily on purpose) or when large amounts of inorganic mercury are available to anaerobic bacteria.

    Almost all large-scale mercury poisoning has been due to the organic form entering the food supply.

    However, though elemental, the form found in CFL's would most likely be vaporized if it got loose in your home. Vaporized elemental mercury is readily absorbed into the lungs, and can cross the blood-brain barrier, leading to temporary neurological effects in the few well-studied cases of household aspiration of the elemental form. Irritability and hyperactivity are typical symptoms.

    Five milligrams is a good round number for the Hg content of a single CFL bulb. What is that for a person? 0.1 ppm? Well, the onset of symptoms in the victims of the Minamata disease (organic mercury poisoning) was a hair concentration of around 50 - 125 ppm (as mentioned, the margin of error on everything related to mercury is HUGE). Ca 100 ppm blood concentrations were found in the mothers of newborns in Iraq after an incident there with fungicide-laced grain in the 1970's. Again, uncertainty is the rule, and due to widely-varying affinities for heavy metals between different organs, there's very little one can predict in a given incident.

    On a side note, while doing my thesis on a power plant mercury control system, I found my first grey hairs.
  • by BearRanger (945122) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @07:44PM (#22813632)
    Many countries, including the US and China have decreed an end to incandescent bulbs. The number of compact fluorescents are about to hugely increase in number. Yes, the amount of mercury per bulb is small but when they're the only bulbs available to billions of people that small amount will become significant. Without a good recycling system this will become a greater environmental issue.

    I'm sure urban environments will do fine with recycling. I wouldn't want to bet on that in rural China if I got my water from local wells. Or rural Mississippi for that matter.

    The latest energy bill signed by President Bush requires the phase out of incandescents to either begin or be complete ( I don't recall which) by 2012.

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:13PM (#22814784)
    The problem is the mercury -- enough in one bulb to contaminate 1,000 gallons of water, even in newer low-mercury bulbs.

    The number on another scaremongering article was 6,000.

    Either way...

    There's a gaping flaw in the logic that if you count PPM for a safe dose, look at the volume, then multiply up. It assumes the mercury is even close to equally disolved in that water.

    If a drop, the volume of which is found in a typical CFL, dropped in to a thousand gallons of water and sank to the bottom, whilst I wouldn't happily do so, I'd still be willing to drink a glass from off to the side of where that drop went in. A little more nervously, I'd still be willing to do so a few weeks later, assuming the drop was still largely intact at the bottom.

    On the flip side, let that drop sink in to a million gallons of water, thus apparently a thousand times under the "safe dose"... and I challenge anyone to be willing to drink the cupfull taken from where the drop sank, original drop included.

    Yes, mercury is bad for you. It turns you in to a character in Alice In Wonderland.

    On the other hand, we're druming up fear by pointing to a perfect distribution and the safe level (accepting that safe levels are usually many times lower than the point at which harm is a likelihood that's why they're called "safe" not "minimal risk" levels).

    If you're going to get your panties in a bunch about that, you'd better not each fish (particularly swordfish, shark, smallmouth bass and pickerel [maine.gov]). With an FDA "safe for human consumption" of 1ppm, shark ranged 0.30-3.53ppm in samples tested, averaging 0.88ppm and swordfish at 0.36-1.68ppm, averaging at 0.88 (FDA [fda.gov]).

    By comparison, the mercury maybe getting out of a bulb, disolved properly in to ground water, getting in to the water supply and failing to get filtered past the safe level is somewhat less of a risk than the statistical variance that means you'll almost certainly clear the safe levels in at least one case if you have a nice swordfish steak half a dozen times at your favorite restaurant.

    Neither is likely to do you much harm. In both cases, getting in to your car and driving to work is a vastly greater risk, yet it puts the silliness of the debate in context when simply eating fish is far worse for you (on that one very limited axis).
  • by antispam_ben (591349) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @11:19PM (#22815392) Journal
    The amounc of mercury in CF's is indeed a VERY SMALL AMOUNT compared to what I've personally SEEN, and heard about others being exposed to:

    When I was a child at the pediatrician's examining room (40+ years ago) they used blood pressure meters (whatever they were called) that used MERCURY in them, much like a thermometer. The mercury went up and down in a vertical glass tube driven by air pressure in the arm cuff, indicating blood pressure. I saw one that was BROKEN with the mercury pooling in the bottom of the case. The doctor saw it was broken and removed it from the room, and came back with another of the same model that wasn't broken, and of course measured my blood pressure with it.

    In a high school science class there was a plastic squirt-bottle of mercury, and a girl had put a drop into the palm of her hand and was playing with it, pushing it around with a finger. The teacher came in and saw what she was doing, and he calmly but firmly told her "When you're through playing with that, carefully put it all back into the bottle, and before you eat lunch, be sure to was your hands very, very thoroughly." I was rather interested in playing with it myself, but after hearing the teacher say that, it reminded me that mercury was Not Safe, that a very small amount ingested could kill (MUCH less than what that girl held in her hand!) and I lost any interest in touching it. Thinking about it now, I'd be surprised if there is ANY such mercury in high school science classes or labs thesedays that isn't left over and long-forgotten from decades ago.

    As an adult an aquaintance told about remodeling old houses and taking the mercury out of old nechanican thermostats (they used mercury in a glass tube that tilted one way would connect two wires stuck into the tube, turning on the heating system. The tube was mounted on a spiral of bimetallic metal, which would change the tilt with temperature). He told of putting the mercury into a jug, that they had collected the mercury from dozens of those things, then someone stole the jug (one can only hope the thief disposed of it properly).

    Mercury is indeed dangerous to human health, and it's good to know that "CF's have such-ahd-such amount of mercury in them." As I've grown older, optimizing my health and safety have become more important to me (I don't drive drunk, because, well I don't drink - I quit smoking 16 years ago, always wear my seat belt, eat healthier, get some exercise, etc) but the amount in CF bulbs is not a particular worry for me, and doesn't stop me from buying and using them out of fear that one might break with me in the room.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein

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