How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent light bulb? About US$4.28 for the bulb and labour — unless you break the bulb. Then you, like Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, could be looking at a cost of about US$2,004.28, which doesn’t include the costs of frayed nerves and risks to health.
Yes, Steve, it does sound crazy. It doesn’t help that it’s coming from you, either. Can we get more details on Brandy Bridges’ story?
Uh-oh. It’s World Net Daily. We’ve gone from the dishonest industry shill with no credibility to the house organ of addle-pated right-wing conspiracy theorists and angry grandpas who hate those damn kids on their lawn. But OK, here’s their story.
When the bulb she was installing in a ceiling fixture of her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom crashed to the floor and broke into the shag carpet, she wasn’t sure what to do. Knowing about the danger of mercury, she called Home Depot, the retail outlet that sold her the bulbs.
According to the Ellison American, the store warned her not to vacuum the carpet and directed her to call the poison control hotline in Prospect, Maine. Poison control staffers suggested she call the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
The latter sent over a specialist to test the air in her house for mercury levels. While the rest of the house was clear, the area of the accident was contaminated above the level considered safe. The specialist warned Bridges not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself – recommending a local environmental cleanup firm.
That company estimated the cleanup cost, conservatively, at $2,000. And, no, her homeowners insurance won’t cover the damage.
Errm, that doesn’t surprise me at all. You could probably panic about the oil spots on your driveway and call environmental cleanup experts to come out and get rid of it, and it would cost that much. Get a couple of highly-trained people using some expensive gear to make a housecall, and you bet it gets expensive. The question is, do you need a team of experts to handle this, or is it overkill?
Let’s ask the Environmental Protection Agency! They actually publish a short, simple fact sheet on the hazards of mercury from compact fluorescent lights. You don’t want to make light of mercury — it is nasty stuff — but here’s how the EPA recommends you dispose of them.
While CFLs for your home are not legally considered hazardous waste
according to federal solid waste rules, it is still best for the environment to
dispose of your CFL properly upon burnout. Only large commercial users of
tubular fluorescent lamps are required to recycle. If recycling is not an
option in your area (see below on how to find out), place the CFL in a
sealed plastic bag and dispose the same way you would batteries, oil-based
paint and motor oil at your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)
Collection Site. If your local HHW Collection Site cannot accept CFLs
(check Earth911.org to find out), seal the CFL in a plastic bag and place
with your regular trash.
So it’s not nice stuff, but no signs of panic from the EPA. They actually go out of their way to tell you that, dangerous as mercury in CFLs is, if you’re serious about reducing mercury waste in the environment, they’re still better than incandescent lights.
Those coal-fired power plants (they’re building another big one over in the Dakotas that we aren’t too happy about) pump out mercury, too. If we weren’t sucking up as much power, we’d produce less mercury. Sounds like a good deal to me.
Milloy is silent on coal-fired power plants, of course. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him publishing a story next week about how mercury from smokestacks isn’t a worry.
What if, like Brandy Bridges, you break a CFL bulb? The EPA has recommendations for that, too.
If a CFL breaks in your home, open nearby windows to disperse any vapor that may
escape, carefully sweep up the fragments (do not use your hands) and wipe the area with a disposable paper towel to
remove all glass fragments. Do not use a vacuum. Place all fragments in a sealed plastic bag and follow disposal
One indicator of Milloy’s trustworthiness on this issue is that he cites a newspaper, the Ellsworth American, as the source of his story about the $2000 cleanup bill, but neglects to mention that the article goes on at considerable length about how that was excessive and unnecessary, and discusses the official recommendations of the EPA and the Department of Environmental Protection, which are quite calm.
I guess hysteria sells better among the global warming denialists.
I am stunned. minimalist points out that, quite contrary to his blanket rejection of the EPA’s lack of serious concern when a CFL breaks in a house, he’s quite ready to belittle the impact of coal plant mercury emissions.
There’s no question that mercury can be toxic to humans and wildlife — but only at sufficiently high doses. A fundamental tenet of modern toxicology is that “the dose makes the poison.” Mere exposure to any level of mercury isn’t necessarily harmful.
He also makes the standard junk scientist reference to research.
Despite much research, not a single study credibly links typical exposures to mercury directly to any sort of health effect.
But then, in his latest article, he says this:
As the activist group Environmental Defense urges us to buy CFLs, it defines mercury on a separate part of its Web site as a “highly toxic heavy metal that can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in fetuses and children” and as “one of the most poisonous forms of pollution.”
When industry dumps mercury into the environment, he says there’s no research to show any sort of health effect. When conservation efforts implement a bulb that uses trace amounts of mercury, he starts talking about brain damage and calls it one of the most poisonous forms of pollution.
That’s an incredible demonstration of rank hypocrisy.