Fluorescent Light Dangers
Fluorescent lights will save money, but use them with caution
By Don Masters
Californians alone purchased some 9 million fluorescent bulbs from early 2007 to April 2008. The reasons to use them are simple: Fluorescent bulbs use "more than 50 percent less energy" over their incandescent counterparts, according to MSNBC. This energy savings is not without cost, however. The use of fluorescent light bulbs comes with health and environmental risks from exposure to mercury and radiation.
Ultraviolet Light Radiation
Fluorescent light bulbs produce radiation as byproduct of the light they emit. When electricity runs through the bulb, it ignites mercury vapor, which creates an arc and produces light in the form of ultraviolet light radiation. A case-control interview study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that radiation from ultraviolet light "remains a potential risk factor for melanoma."
Mercury is a key component in the production of light by a fluorescent bulb. This substance is extremely toxic to humans. Many household products, such as thermometers, no longer contain mercury. As long as the bulb remains intact, there is no cause for concern of mercury poisoning. The problems arise when a bulb is broken, and the mercury gas escapes into the home. Once the mercury is released, people unknowingly breathe in the gas and can be subject to the poison. The first thing to do if a bulb breaks is to ventilate the room by opening the windows. After ventilating the room, follow the clean-up recommendations of the manufacturer. You can find these on the packaging that came with the light bulb. Keep children and pets away from broken compact fluorescent lights. Mercury exposure in any amount can be damaging.
Water and Soil Contamination
Even with manufacturer and government guidelines regarding the proper methods of disposing of fluorescent bulbs, they still contaminate our environment and water supply. The final disposition of the bulb depends entirely on the person who purchased it. If you choose to dispose of it by tossing it in the trash, the mercury that each light contains ends up in a landfill. Through rain and natural leaching of the soil, mercury can find its way into the water supply. The mercury contained in each fluorescent bulb is "enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels." Dispose of fluorescent bulbs according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Dispose of CFLs as required in your community.
About the Author
Donald Masters is a regular contributor to DexKnows.
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