Should I worry about the mercury in fluorescent light bulbs?
I know that fluorescent lights are more energy efficient than standard light bulbs, but I’ve heard that they have mercury in them. Are they still a better choice for the environment?
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) contain a small quantity of mercury—usually about 4 to 5 milligrams.
- But the more important fact to remember is that choosing fluorescents over standard incandescent bulbs will reduce the amount of mercury pumped into the air by coal-fired power plants.
- Over the same time period, using an incandescent bulb will result in 10 milligrams of mercury air pollution versus just 2.4 milligrams for a CFL.
Although there’s only a little bit of mercury in each CFL, you should never throw a fluorescent light bulb in the trash.
- When CFLs wind up in a landfill, they can contaminate groundwater. Mercury is toxic even in very small amounts, and it builds up in the food chain.
- To find a mercury recycler or disposal facility near you, call 1-800-CLEAN-UP, an automated hotline, or visit earth911.org and use the "Find a Recycling Center" search bar at the top of the page.
If you are concerned about the amount of mercury in the CFLs in your home, I recommend using Philips Marathon bulbs. Philips has pioneered a technology that reduces the mercury content of fluorescent lights. Other brands of low-mercury CFLs will be on the market soon.
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