How Many CFLs Does It Take….
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.