? _ RS22807 - Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs): Issues with Use and Disposal
27-Feb-2008; Linda Luther; 6 p.

Abstract: Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), a smaller version of fluorescent tubes, are produced with technology that allows them to fit into standard lighting products such as lamps and ceiling fixtures. The bulbs use one-fifth to one-quarter the energy and can last 10 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. These factors have led to a significant increase in the sales of CFLs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CFL sales doubled in 2007 and now represent 20% of the U.S. light bulb market. Sales may be expected to increase with the implementation of new energy efficiency standards for lighting specified in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140, enacted December 19, 2007). Those standards require certain light bulbs to use 25% to 30% less energy than today’s products beginning in 2012. CFLs already meet the standards.

The increased use of CFLs has led to concern among some groups over the presence in the bulbs of mercury, a potent neurotoxin. By way of example, EPA has likened the amount of mercury in individual bulbs to that which could fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen — ranging from 2 to 6 milligrams (mg). At these levels, mercury is virtually harmless to consumers. Still, EPA recommends that caution be taken in cleaning up broken CFLs to minimize potential mercury exposure. EPA also recommends that spent bulbs be recycled, instead of disposed of with household garbage, in areas where CFL recycling is available. (Federal regulations that apply to the disposal of mercury-containing products (e.g., lighting, switches, thermometers) do not apply to households.) Further, EPA has noted that increased CFL use may actually reduce overall mercury emissions to the environment by potentially reducing power use — coal-fired power plants are the greatest individual source of mercury emissions in the United States.

This report discusses reasons why CFL sales have increased dramatically in the past two years, concerns that have arisen regarding their use and disposal, and some media reports that have exaggerated the potential danger associated with the mercury in CFLs.

 [read report]

Topics: Energy, Waste Management

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