Monday, September 10, 2007

The real cost of CFL Bulbs.

Every website about global warming urges us to "replace one regular bulb with the new CFL and save X tons of CO2 emissions." The first CFL I bought came wrapped in a non-recyclable clam shell casing roughly the size of a small shoe box. What is eco-friendly about that? My regular light bulbs come in a simple, RECYCLABLE paper box. WalMart has stated that their sales goal of CFL's for 2007 is 6,000,000 units. 6 MILLION plastic shoe boxes going into landfills from just one source!

Regular light bulbs are fairly nontoxic and break down into glass, aluminum, a bit of brass, and a little argon gas. All fairly simple and non-toxic. CFL bulbs on the other hand contain argon and mercury vapor and phosphors. These TOXIC chemicals have to be disposed of in special ways-In my case by driving them to the recycling station. If you break a CFL you risk exposing yourself and family to mercury and the bulb is no longer recycleable so mercury is sent to a landfill.

Regular light bulbs are 4/$1. CFL's are still around $3.99 each.

My regular light bulbs are made by Americans, working good wage jobs in St Louis Missouri (GE is planning to close this factory in 2008) Philips Lighting has its corporate office in Somerset, New Jersey with manufacturing plants in Danville, KY; Bath, NY; Salina, KS; Fairmont, WV; Paris, TX. CFL's are made by hand in China by workers who make around 9 CENTS per hour while being exposed to Mercury Vapor on a daily basis.

Regular bulbs travel up to 500 miles by truck and train(with American drivers) to reach consumers across America. CFL's travel thousands of miles on ships manned by low wage foreign sailors.

Regular light bulbs are made mostly in American Factories under the close watch of the EPA, and maintain very high standards concerning air, water and soil contamination. CFL's are made with almost no environmental oversight, causing huge swaths of contaminated ground. The areas around CFL plants in China typically show mercury poisoning in the soil, water and air. These very areas are also, typically where the factory workers live and grow subsistence gardens, thereby ingesting even more mercury.

Regular light bulbs use 60 watts per hour. CFL's use 13 watts per hour. BUT, when I turn the regular bulb off, the energy savings is then equal to or better than the CFL.

As with any of the new eco-friendly products, think before you buy. The actual cost of many of these new ideas can be very steep and cruel when compared to traditional products . In 99% of cases it is much better to use old light bulbs more responsibly than it is to buy the new CFL's. DON'T SWITCH IT OUT--JUST SWITCH IT OFF!


1) http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/108/open_lightbulbs.html
2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4330333.stm
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDP/is_2001_August_27/ai_78570218

4 comments:

VicinSea said...

One further thought on this topic:

CFL's are a very good example of the new fake-green movement. There are a lot of ideas that seem green when you first look at them but once you go back to the source, it can be pretty scary. Any real solution to global warming or any other global problem has to make real improvement without causing damage in some other area. Damaging one area to provide another area with a green solution is just about moving the mess, not really green.

The vision of the future that includes domed cities amid vast wastelands comes to mind. Under the current "Green" standards we continue to pollute but limit where the pollution is allowed. As more and more of the plant becomes polluted the "green zones" will become smaller and smaller until all that is left is the cities.

Greg Kaleka said...

"Their net effect is to reduce the total amount of mercury emitted in the environment, explains a story in the Akron Beacon-Journal:

'... [I]t's important to factor in the mercury that coal-fired power plants emit in producing the electricity to power our light bulbs. In making the electricity to power a CFL over its lifetime, a plant would release 3.3 milligrams of mercury, but it would emit 13.6 milligrams over that same period to power incandescent bulbs, the [federal government's] Energy Star program says. Add the amount of mercury contained in the CFL to the amount released in producing the power, and it's still only 61 percent of the mercury attributable to [conventional] incandescent bulbs.'"

ward said...

is this real?

Elbert Gibson said...

Well I like to use CFL for it’s light quality. I didn’t know that there are some hazardous issues with these. Thank you for sharing………

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