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How Many CFLs Does It Take….

11 February 2011

The issue of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and mercury is something that many people feel very passionately about.  While CFLs use 75% less electricity than incandescents and can save Minnesota families over $40 over their lifetime per bulb, they do contain about 3mg of mercury on average – and that makes some folks very uncomfortable.  You may have asked yourself, “why would people who want to improve the environment recommend I put bulbs that have mercury in them in my home?”  Well, there are a few reasons.  First of all, 3mg of mercury is a very, VERY tiny amount – even in a worst-case breakage scenario, you’d get more exposure to mercury from eating two cans of albacore tuna fish in one week.  Which brings me to the second very important reason to use CFLs – reducing electricity waste helps reduce mercury pollution.

The thing is, power plants are the #1 source of mercury pollution in the United States.  Burning coal to produce electricity also produces mercury.  The awesome Midwest Energy News blog just ran the numbers and power plants in Minnesota alone emitted 1,664 pounds of mercury into the air in 2009 – the equivalent to 302 million CFLs. CFLs certainly aren’t perfect – and they are just holding space until LED (light emitting diodes) become more useful and affordable – but in the short term, their energy efficiency far outweighs their 3mg of mercury.

:: Midwest Energy News

One Comment leave one →
  1. lighthouse permalink
    11 February 2011 10:18 am

    That coal power mercury argument is, and was, never true, even with untreated
    coal, power plants,
    and new EPA emission restrictions reduce the argument even further
    see http://ceolas.net/#li198x

    In a Nutshell:
    1. We know where the ever decreasing local coal power plant chimneys
    are and we can treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency
    at lower costs.
    2. Compare that with a broken CFL at home, with mercury release on the spot.
    3. Also compare that with future billions of scattered broken CFLs
    elsewhere, when we do not know where all the broken lights will be,
    and so it is much harder and often impossible to do anything about
    them.
    4. Also compare that with any recycled CFLs, with its own mercury
    release, including the mercury release from any shipping transport
    back to China for new CFL manufacturing.

    There can hardly be any question which is the greater environmental
    problem, not just locally but also globally, when the further China
    mining and manufacturing factors are added to the all the other CFL
    mercury problems.

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