Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) provide energy savings as well as light. According to the University of Florida website, compact fluorescents use a quarter of the energy of incandescents and can last up to 10 times longer. These benefits do not come without risks. CFL bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury, a deadly poison. Many of these bulbs have a spiral-tube construction, which means a larger surface area of glass that can break. Compact fluorescents also must be installed in ventilated (open) fixtures or they will quickly overheat.
The interior of a CFL is lined with trace amounts of mercury which is a deadly poison, but improves electrical conductivity. Even a trace amount of mercury in the home environment is dangerous, especially for pregnant women and small children. When a CFL bulb breaks, mercury can be released into the air as a fine dust that must be cleaned up with gloves and duct tape, while wearing a dust mask. Broken CFLs cannot be thrown into the regular trash or recycling bins. Place shards, gloves and cleaning tools into a glass jar seal it, and contact your local government for instructions on how to dispose of hazardous materials.
Overheating and Fire Danger
CFL bulbs run at a cooler temperature than incandescent lights, but can easily overheat and fail. They can't be used with dimmer switches, either. Use CFLs only in open-style fixtures, not in enclosed ceiling or globe fixtures. CFL bulbs also contain small electronics that can fail and start fires. Also, if a fire starts in your home for a different reason, bear in mind that you will have many burst bulbs containing mercury to clean up, in addition to everything else.
Trace amounts of mercury add up over time. With millions of people using and eventually disposing of CFL bulbs, the mercury in the environment will increase. Even if you remove a broken CFL properly from your home, you cannot control what happens to it at a landfill, where it will most likely be crushed, leaching mercury into the soil and ground water.
- Photo Credit blue hue of cfl lightbulb on black image by Silverpics from Fotolia.com
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