Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Compact fluorescent light bulb- some compact mercury info

i was doing some background check on energy efficient buildings when i came across info on CFL or compact fluorescent light bulb. i had read about CFL earlier and was acutely aware that they are efficient vis a vis tubes and incandescent bulbs. also the fact that indian govt. had passed the Energy act 2001 based on which haryana govt. had made regulations and everybody was composing and singing raginis made on CFL. there were govt. schemes to replace incand. bulbs with cfl's. as i started reading info on cfl there are finer prints which nobody is talking about. got some info on wikipedia n some american sites. collated it. i think we need to do more work in understanding cfl's before blindly pushing it down in the market. this is all the more important as waste management has never been a very strong point with us. for most of us waste is something which needs to be thrown out , so here goes

Mercury poisoning is the ill effects on humans nervous system and other bodily systems due to the over-exposure of mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. The "mad hatters" of the 19th century suffered from mercury poisoning which caused personality changes, nervousness, trembling, and even dementia. The hatters were exposed to mercury in the felting process, where mercury was rubbed onto cloth to preserve it.
The degree of risk varies depending on the amount of mercury, the form, how often, and the age of the exposed person. Children (and also unborn fetuses) are the most vulnerable the effects of mercury poisoning.

If you are affected by acute mercury poisoning, your symptoms will usually begin with a cough, chest tightness, trouble with breathing, and an upset stomach. Pneumonia can develop, which can be fatal.
If you swallow inorganic mercury compounds, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe kidney damage may occur.

If you are exposed to any form of mercury repeatedly or for an extended period, chronic mercury poisoning can result. Health effects include nervous system effects, kidney damage, and birth defects. There are several symptoms:

Gingivitis: The gums become soft and spongy, the teeth get loose, sores may develop, and there may be increased salivation.
Mood and mental changes: People with chronic mercury poisoning often also have wide mood swings, becoming irritable, frightened, depressed, or excited very quickly for no apparent reason. Such people may become extremely upset at any criticism, lose all self-confidence, and become apathetic. Hallucinations, memory loss, and inability to concentrate can occur.
Nerve damage: It may start with a fine tremor (shaking) of the hand, loss of sensitivity in hands and feet, difficulty in walking, or slurred speech. Tremors may also occur in the tongue and eyelids. Eventually this can progress to trouble balancing and walking. It has even caused paralysis and death in rare cases.

  • Besides the above, Mercury can cause kidney damage, which includes increased protein in the urine and may result in kidney failure at high dose exposure.
    Mercury has also been known to affect the development of prenatal life and infants.
    Skin allergies may develop. If this happens, repeated exposure causes rash and itching.
    Exposure to mercury vapor can cause the lens of the eye to discolor.
    Some of the inorganic mercury compounds (mercury two) can cause burns or severe irritation of the skin and eyes on contact.


Now something about CFL. A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also known as a compact fluorescent light bulb (or less commonly as a compact fluorescent tube [CFT]) is a type of fluorescent lamp. Many CFLs are designed to replace an incandescent lamp and can fit in the existing light fixtures formerly used for incandescents.

Compared to general service incandescent lamps giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use less power and have a longer rated life, but generally have a higher purchase price. In the United States, a CFL can save over 30 USD in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime compared to an incandescent lamp and save 2000 times its own weight in greenhouse gases. Like all fluorescent lamps, CFLs contain mercury; this complicates the disposal of fluorescent lamps.
Modern CFLs typically have a lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps are usually manufactured to have a lifespan of 750 hours or 1,000 hours. Some incandescent bulbs claim long rated lifespans of 20,000 hours with reduced light output

Broken CFL bulbs release mercury vapors which are harmful to human and ecological health. The EPA ( in USA) has a page dedicated to clean-up of broken CFL Bulbs. Although mercury in these bulbs is a health hazard, special handling upon breakage is currently not printed on the packaging of household CFL bulbs in many countries. It is important to note that the amount of mercury released by one bulb can exceed U.S. federal guidelines for chronic exposure

CFLs, like all fluorescent lamps, contain small amounts of mercury and it is a concern for landfills and waste incinerators where the mercury from lamps is released and contributes to air and water pollution. In the USA, lighting manufacturer members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) have voluntarily capped the amount of mercury used in CFLs:
Under the voluntary commitment, effective 15 April 2007, NEMA members will cap the total mercury content in CFLs of less than 25 watts at 5 milligrams (mg) per unit. The total mercury content of CFLs that use 25 to 40 watts of electricity will be capped at 6 mg per unit.

mercury from spent CFLs is not released into air if the bulbs are not broken in transport. Only 3% of CFL bulbs are properly disposed of or recycled. This comparison also only refers to the statistics of a CFL bulb surviving its full rated life.
Some manufacturers such as Philips, GE and Turolight make very low mercury content CFLs. In 2007, Turolight claimed its new Genesis Fusion line contained only 1mg of mercury, making it the lowest EnergyStar approved bulb in North America.

Safe disposal requires storing the bulbs unbroken until they can be processed. Consumers should seek advice from local authorities (in the west and not here).

Usually, one can either:
Return used CFLs to where they were purchased, so the store can recycle them correctly; or
Take used CFLs to a local recycling facility.
Broken CFLs are an immediate health hazard due to the evaporation of mercury into the atmosphere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that, in the absence of local guideline, fluorescent bulbs be double-bagged in plastic bags before disposal.

The first step of processing CFLs involves crushing the bulbs in a machine that uses negative pressure ventilation and a mercury-absorbing filter or cold trap to contain mercury vapor. Many municipalities are purchasing such machines. The crushed glass and metal is stored in drums, ready for shipping to recycling factories.

According to the Northwest Compact Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Project, because household users have the option of disposing of these products in the same way they dispose of other solid waste, "a large majority of household CFLs are going to municipal solid waste".

What Never to Do with a Mercury Spill
· Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury (but see the "What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks" section below for more specific instructions about vacuuming broken fluorescent light bulbs). The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
· Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
· Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing. For example:
if you broke a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing, or
if you broke a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) so that broken glass and other material from the bulb, including mercury-containing powder, came into contact with your clothing.
You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, like the clothing you happened to be wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are lighting more homes than ever before, and EPA is encouraging Americans to use and recycle them safely. Carefully recycling CFLs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights.
EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs to ensure that the Agency presents the most up-to-date information for consumers and businesses.

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug
Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials
If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

Once more on what happens with mercury.

Mercury poisoning is the ill effects on humans nervous system and other bodily systems due to the over-exposure of mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. The "mad hatters" of the 19th century suffered from mercury poisoning which caused personality changes, nervousness, trembling, and even dementia. The hatters were exposed to mercury in the felting process, where mercury was rubbed onto cloth to preserve it.
The degree of risk varies depending on the amount of mercury, the form, how often, and the age of the exposed person. Children (and also unborn fetuses) are the most vulnerable the effects of mercury poisoning.
If you are affected by acute mercury poisoning, your symptoms will usually begin with a cough, chest tightness, trouble with breathing, and an upset stomach. Pneumonia can develop, which can be fatal.
If you swallow inorganic mercury compounds, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe kidney damage may occur.
If you are exposed to any form of mercury repeatedly or for an extended period, chronic mercury poisoning can result. Health effects include nervous system effects, kidney damage, and birth defects. There are several symptoms:
Gingivitis: The gums become soft and spongy, the teeth get loose, sores may develop, and there may be increased salivation.
Mood and mental changes: People with chronic mercury poisoning often also have wide mood swings, becoming irritable, frightened, depressed, or excited very quickly for no apparent reason. Such people may become extremely upset at any criticism, lose all self-confidence, and become apathetic. Hallucinations, memory loss, and inability to concentrate can occur.
Nerve damage: It may start with a fine tremor (shaking) of the hand, loss of sensitivity in hands and feet, difficulty in walking, or slurred speech. Tremors may also occur in the tongue and eyelids. Eventually this can progress to trouble balancing and walking. It has even caused paralysis and death in rare cases.
Besides the above, Mercury can cause kidney damage, which includes increased protein in the urine and may result in kidney failure at high dose exposure.
Mercury has also been known to affect the development of prenatal life and infants.
Skin allergies may develop. If this happens, repeated exposure causes rash and itching.
Exposure to mercury vapor can cause the lens of the eye to discolor.
Some of the inorganic mercury compounds (mercury two) can cause burns or severe irritation of the skin and eyes on contact.

23 comments:

Rozita Singh said...

that was really informative!had no idea about CFLs.just knew about its pros and not cons.the rate at whch their usage is growing its imp to know about their proper disposal nd the threats it may cause in the absence of it.

Greg L-W. said...

Hi,

You may find this link gives a light hearted TERROR to those who read it!

http://gl-w.blogspot.com/2009/02/g068-light-bulb.html

Sadly I doubt you will find it particularly FUN.

Regards,
Greg L-W.

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KaranDwivedi said...

Heloo,

i am a resident of gurgaon and am doing a project on the topic of mercury poisoning due to CFls.

i have some questions..

1. are there any cfl recycling plants around ggn?

2. are there any CFL recycling plants in India?

3. Until there are recycling plants.. what should i suggest people to do with fused CFl lamps?

Manhattan Air Specialists said...

Thanks for the article.There are many concerns with these lights.They save energy sure but there are other worries which the research has to come to terms with to negate.

Anonymous said...

i just found your info on mercury in lighting. Some years ago, i accidently knocked a light tube over and the bulb blew up in my face. I went to hospital and they took the small slivers of glass out and seen no damage. Well, that was years ago, and ever since, I get pains that feel like someone is poking needles into my eyes and the eye doctor says he can't see anything. Well, mom was here when i had the pain and she says my eye looks real funny when it happens and it looks like it is going crazy. It hurts so bad, that i can't even open my eyes for quite a while. The pain is bad. Could that be the damage from the gas. Has there ever been a class action for this kind of damage.
Mary M

preeti mehra said...

Have been using CFL bulbs since 2005 and no have quite a few dud ones to dispose off. Have been frying to find out about a disposal site/ proceedure but no luck so far.

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Johney smith said...

this post shows is all the more important as waste management has never been a very strong point with us.

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Larfaz lory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larfaz lory said...

Hi,

Now fluorescent light bulb is in the market for your need, it is your duty to think about Where to Buy Incandescent Light Bulbs before you go to the local market. Try to get some knowledge about the fluorescent bulb, thanks a lot.

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