Incandescent Lightbulbs, We Love You

By Yul

GE just closed the last U.S. factory making incandescent bulbs and 200 workers are out of jobs because GE is importing compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) made in China. Under George Bush’s 2007 energy bill, incandescent bulbs will be banned in 2014.

Our house is full of them and, like this woman, we refuse to switch until the last one dies.

The Daily Green tells you what to look for in a CFL:

“…Energy Star-certified models…. .two-year warranty… minimum rated lifespan of at least 6,000 hours and cannot emit an audible noise. They must turn on in less than one second and reach at least 80% of their output within three minutes. They can’t have more than five milligrams of mercury.”

Noise? They take THREE minutes to come on? MERCURY?

“All fluorescent bulbs contain a small, and decreasing, amount of mercury, which is toxic. They actually result in less mercury released into the environment than incandescents, since those use so much more energy, much of which is generated from coal (which releases mercury).”

Does this look like the lamest rationalization for topping all your lamps with deadly poison you’ve ever seen? Yeah, I agree.

If you break a CFL, open all the windows, don heavy gloves if you don’t own a full hazmat suit, and carefully scrape up the glass and mercury. DO NOT VACUUM; it spreads the lethal fumes. Then use duct tape to pick up any tiny bits. Put the bulb and anything that touched it in sealed double plastic bags or a lidded glass jar and take it to the nearest hazardous waste dump (which should be right around the corner if these bulbs catch on). It may be illegal in your state — it’s already immoral in all 50 states — to throw it out with the trash.

Next time you vacuum that area, throw out the vacuum cleaner bag. In the meantime, you and your pets can walk on whatever’s there and that’s OK.

I want to know why our government is pushing CFLs while DOING NOTHING to facilitate disposal.

The mercury in one CFL can cause kidney and brain damage and poison 1,000-6,000 gallons of water.

CFLs create light with UV rays (you know, the same stuff you wear 30 SPF sunblock to avoid). The UV light bounces off the white coating on the glass. Reviews are mixed on whether this is dangerous, but UV is UV. Decide for yourself whether you want it inside your home every waking moment.

If a CFL is too close to electronic devices, the infrared light it produces can disrupt them. So if the channel suddenly changes on your TV, it could be the lamp.

A CFL hates being turned on and off a lot, dims over time, can’t be used in a fully enclosed fixture unless it’s outside, and craps out in extreme heat or cold. When it dies, it can smoke, sizzle, pop, and even start a fire.

So unless you coddle your CFLs like rare hothouse orchids, the chances of one lasting as long as the hype on the package and putting out decent light seem slim to none.

Thank you, U.S. government, for embracing CFLs, knowing full well that the fools who always dismiss facts — the Palin, Beck, and LimpPaw followers — will carelessly discard CFLs until they’ve poisoned every drop of potable water in the country — and then blame you.

The real tragedy is that there IS a safer, energy-efficient bulb: the LED. But it’s prohibitively expensive.

So why don’t we create jobs and protect the environment by investing in this technology? Companies could get incentives for making LEDs more affordable, and Congress could keep its damn light bulb legislation until people have a SAFE alternative.

In the meantime, we’re stocking up on incandescents while we still can and dare the Bulb Police to catch us.

PS: GE tells all you need to know about CFLs, but beware of the rosy corporate spin between the lines.

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10 Responses to Incandescent Lightbulbs, We Love You

  1. zappa says:

    WTF?????
    I have read this several times and it just won’t sink in..Where can I buy some of those eco-friendly nuclear waste light bulbs?

    Zappa’s mom

  2. Tuxi says:

    Holy Crap, Catman! Thanx for that info., Yul! Mom was one of the multitude who was going to switch to the little toxic bastards, but, pardon the pun, screw that! We’ve been using full-spectrum flourescent lamps in some of the rooms and like them. You know, that’s another concession by Dubya to China. Makes me wonder how much money may have changed hands in that matter. I mean, we know the great record they have with baby formula, pet food, toothpaste and drywall! Besides, Dubya was the dimmest bulb in the White House since-well-his father! How can you ban a lightbulb for these mini toxic waste dumps?

  3. catsworking says:

    Tuxi and Zappa, Karen disappeared for a few hours yesterday and came home with a big bag of incandescent bulbs for all the lamps and the bathroom fixtures. We’re not switching to CFLs without a fight. She also got 2 LED nightlights, just to try out LED.

    She was talking to a relative visiting from up North yesterday, a diehard conservative, about bulbs and, exactly as I predicted, the woman said, “Gee, I had no idea CFLs are dangerous. I’ve just been throwing them in the trash!”

    Sure saving energy and money and poison the planet. Typical of Bush’s shortsightedness that he would have thought these bulbs a good idea.

  4. Tuxi says:

    Yes, and they better not say this was a *liberul* idea because this was all done on Bush’s watch!

  5. mauigirl says:

    Yul, great post, very informative. It is ridiculous to ban the incandescent lights (Thomas Edison must be spinning in his grave) without having a solution for the problems CFLs pose. It is definitely something being done in haste and without enough thought given to the consequences.

  6. catsworking says:

    mauigirl, while I was working on this post, I read that clear incandescent bulbs with naked filaments are becoming all the rage with restaurants, of all places. Seems they cast a softer, warmer, more flattering glow than fluorescent. Well, DUH!

    They were also saying that it’s a miracle that Edison’s technology survived for over 100 years, considering the fact that every other gadget seems to go obsolete every 6 months these days.

    Pouncing on CFLs is a case of everybody looking before they leaped, and the consequences will be felt with poisoned soil and water and personal environmental disasters inside people’s houses if, heaven forbid, they drop and break one of those suckers.

  7. MorganLF says:

    How truly bizarre! I had free samples of these evil toxic CFL bulbs dropped off on my doostep, I had no idea! Now how do I get rid of them?

    I believe this will start an incandescant hoarding rush. I am racing out to nab every one I can grab and anyone who tells me otherwise will get a mercury laden CFL lobbed at them!

  8. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you’re right. It’s not like you can just throw those suckers in the trash and bob’s your uncle!

    For everybody, here’s a link to the EPA site that gives national drop-off points:

    http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/universal/lamps/live.htm

    Morgan, it looks like in NJ you can take them to IKEA or Home Depot.

    Karen told me that when she was in Target buying incandescents the other day, all the big economical packs of GE 60-watt bulbs were gone. Methinks there’s some hoarding going on. Funny thing was, they had a bunch of el cheapo bulbs on the bottom shelf (89 cents for 4 vs. $1.99 for GE) that nobody seemed to be grabbing, probably because they looked Chinese — where many of the CFLs will be coming from (India, too) because those countries aren’t as concerned about their workers being around mercury all day.

  9. Brad Buscher says:

    Although consumers will no longer have the choice to use incandescent bulbs, CFLs are a better solution, both environmentally and economically, than incandescent bulbs, which ultimately result in greater mercury exposure than CFLs, because they consume more power and require more power generation. Since mercury is a byproduct of burning coal, coal-fired power plants are a larger source of mercury pollution than the mercury content in the CFLs. With a proven packaging configuration and proper disposal, CFLs can be used effectively without releasing harmful mercury vapor.

    While a variety of containers are marketed for transportation of fluorescent lamps and CFLs, many don’t provide sufficient protection against mercury vapor emitted from broken lamps. Using a proven packaging design is vital to ensuring the safety of people who handle these lamps, as well as maintaining their green benefits. Read about a recent study that tested several packaging configurations here: http://vaporlok.blogspot.com/2010/05/layers-of-protection-packaging-used.html

  10. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Brad. I haven’t read your blog, but your comment here sounds like the arguments of a shill.

    My beef with CFLs is that there IS NO EASY WAY TO DISPOSE OF THEM, broken or unbroken. We have pounced on this technology assuming that EVERYBODY in the country will be fully aware of the hazards and know exactly how to handle the bulbs safely when, in fact, probably a minute percentage of the population is aware of the risk because all they’ve heard is “They’re GREEN! They save money on electricity!” How they can turn your house into a hazardous waste site isn’t even mentioned (not even in a whisper, really fast, like they do in drug commercials with the deadly side effects).

    And, well, if you read my post, you already know what I think of the argument about incandescent bulbs putting out more mercury via coal.

    I’m still not convinced, but nice try.

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