Friday, February 4, 2011

Energy efficient curly fluorescent light bulbs can be hazardous to your health!

Curly fluorescent light bulbs are marketed as energy-saving products that reduce pollution. However, each bulb contains approximately 5 milligrams of mercury, sufficient for contaminating approximately 6,000 gallons of drinking water. This poses significant problems if these bulbs are not cleaned up or disposed of properly:
  • Health: Mercury is released when a curly fluorescent light bulb breaks. Low level mercury exposure from these bulbs can cause tremors, mood shifts, sleeplessness, muscle fatigue, and headaches. High level or extended length exposure can lead to learning disabilities, altered personality, deafness, loss of memory, chromosomal damage, and nerve, brain, and kidney damage. There are also risks to the nervous systems of young children and unborn babies.
  • Environment: According to the EPA, over a billion curly light bulbs are discarded in the trash each year. At some point, it stands to reason that these bulbs will be broken. The mercury will then eventually find its way into the air, water, and soil, contaminating drinking water as well as the fish inhabiting nearby streams and rivers. Fruits and vegetables can also absorb mercury from the soil. Farm animals who are part of the food supply chain can also ingest contaminated food and water.
  • Animals: Farm animals and wildlife can experience reproductive failure and DNA alterations from mercury exposure, as well as damage to kidneys, stomach, and intestines.
Contact your local government or waste management company for more information about disposal programs for curly fluorescent bulbs. If there is not a local household hazardous waste collection program, commercial recycling company or retail take back program in your area, check with your local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection program to see if they accept them. Many home improvement centers such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Menards sponsor similar programs.

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