'Just throw it out' - Council advice on toxic lightbulbs
9th March, 2010
An Ecologist investigation reveals that three quarters of London Boroughs are advising their residents to simply throw compact fluorescent lightbulbs in their general waste, despite the hazard posed by their mercury content
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are truly an environmental blessing – they last up to 15 times longer than normal light bulbs, use a third of the energy of an equivalent filament lamp and are even more economical for users in the long term. The price of these benefits, however, lies in the tiny amount of mercury contained in each bulb, which calls for specialist recycling to avoid damage to the environment.
A CFL contains around 4 milligrams of mercury, which is barely enough to cover the head of a ballpoint pen but forms an essential working part of the lamp. When electrical current is passed through the mercury vapour in the bulb it becomes energised and gives off ultraviolet light. The phosphor coating on the tube then absorbs this, and fluoresces, giving off visible light. If disposed of in landfill, or incinerated, mercury may escape into the environment through leakage or broken lamps.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, it is estimated that 2 to 4 tons of mercury are released into the environment in America each year from fluorescent lamps alone: 'Once in the environment, mercury can be converted to an organic form that accumulates in living organisms and contaminates the...
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