Parents need to exercise caution when using the energy saving CFL lightbulbs. They contain mercury, which produces the light, but in an amount that can be harmful to children and even a fetus. Exposure to mercury can harm the nervous system. In this Maine study, even after the mercury from these broken bulbs was cleaned up, high levels of mercury were still present. Here is an excerpt from the article.
“The study recommended that if a compact fluorescent breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum, even on a rug, to clean up a broken compact fluorescent lamps. Instead, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, and then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the lamp broke as a precaution. Place the shards and cleanup debris in a glass jar with a screw top and remove the jar from the house.”
“According to the US Department of Energy, if every household replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent, the United States would save more than $600 million each year in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to 800,000 cars.
But compact fluorescents can contain from 1 to 30 milligrams of mercury, according to the Mercury Policy Project. The nonprofit cited a New Jersey study that estimated that about 2 to 4 tons of the element are released into the environment in the United States each year from compact fluorescents. That number is expected to grow as sales do. In comparison, about 48 tons of mercury is released into the environment by power plants each year, according to federal statistics.”
My comments: I am torn because I do care about the environment, but mercury is not safe. I have an active 23 month old and a lot of lamps. Plus, plants who manufacture CFLs put a lot of mercury vapors into the air and I do not want to support that. Additionally, disposing of these can be tricky. Many states are making it illegal to dispose of in the regular trash and are setting up recyling locations for CFL bulbs.
What to do? If you use or plan to use CFL light bulbs, do not use them in lamps where there is potential for the lamp to get knocked over, breaking the bulb. Be sure to handle the bulb with care and screw it in by the base and not the bulb itself (screwing by the bulb could cause it to break — good to know). And be sure to properly dispose of the used or broken bulb — find a location where you can recycle it, do not toss it in the regular trash where it will end up in a landfill, break and send harmful mercury into the local water.
Hey manufacturers, make one that is actually safe for humans and the environment, and as effective and I will gladly change every lightbulb in my house — not just 1. For now, I will use the regular bulbs and turn off lights when not in use.