According to the EPA, if every household in America replaced one “traditional” bulb with an energy-saving compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulb, it would result in $700 million in energy cost savings each year, plus a greenhouse gas savings equivalent to that of 800,000 automobiles.
They’re expensive, but CFL bulbs tend to pay for themselves in less a year, and often last for several. It’s no wonder they’re so popular with homeowners in Oklahoma City. But, CFLs also come with health risks.
Namely, CFL bulbs contain mercury — an average of 4 milligrams per bulb.
The mere presence of mercury doesn’t make CFLs dangerous. It just means that you should exercise care when handling them, and take certain precautions when disposing of them.
The Environment Protection Agency offers some tips:
- Screw/unscrew the bulb from the base and not the bulb to prevent breakage
- Never force a CFL bulb into a light socket
- When the bulb burns out, bring it to one of 3,106 recycling centers
The EPA website also give guidance for dealing with broken bulbs. Among the recommendations: Don’t wash mercury-covered clothing to prevent contaminating other clothing, too, and don’t vacuum up the poison, either. There are special handling instructions to prevent poisoning yourself and others in your household.
The EPA’s CFL safety PDF is 3 pages long and can be viewed on its Web site.
CFLs provide long-term energy and environment cost savings. And, with some common sense care, their risks to your health can be minimized.