EPA's Vote On Eco-Impact of CFLs

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While compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are being embraced for energy savings and a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, the U.S. EPA recently addressed whether the bulbs are, in fact, eco-friendly because of the presence of toxic mercury in each bulb.

According to the EPA, ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Photo: seco.cpa.state.tx.us

ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Photo: seco.cpa.state.tx.us

The EPA stands by the fact that “the benefits of lower energy consumption outweigh the disadvantages,” according to EPA’s electronics recycling specialist Dan Gallo. The Agency has been a supporter from the beginning of the ENERGY STAR Change a Light campaign that will occasionally provide free CFLs to individuals who commit to energy efficiency.

While mercury can cause air pollution and health problems to the kidneys and nervous system if inhaled, it poses no threat unless a CFL is broken. Gallo adds, “It would take 100 CFLs to equal the amount of mercury contained in older thermometers, which is about 500 milligrams.”

The EPA is recommending two options to ensure that the pros of CFLs continue to outweigh the cons:

  1. Know how to clean up a mercury spill in case the bulb breaks
  2. Find a recycling option once the CFL no longer works
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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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