Looming Lightbulb Liability—–(LLL)

cfc-bulb.jpg

I saw this one coming months ago when California wanted to make these little toxic bombs mandatory. Now people are waking up to the fact that not every energy saving idea that comes down the ‘pike is a good one. Remember when mercury was going to kill us all? Mercury from the old mines in our ground water, mercury in our homes, mercury in the fish we eat, and the Mercury parked in your driveway. (just kidding about the driveway) Anyway, the powers that be thought it would be good to bring it right back into your house via the CFL bulb. But the good news is people have noticed.

The speeding freight train carrying toxic waste liability for makers, sellers and purchasers of compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, was only faintly audible in the distance last spring when this column first warned of it. Now we’re beginning to see that environmentalist-stoked train speed toward its victims, whom President Bush and Congress just finished tying to the tracks.

CFLs and all other fluorescent lightbulbs require special clean-up and disposal procedures because they contain small amounts of mercury, which is neurotoxic at sufficiently high exposures. For example, you’re not supposed to vacuum breakage or toss used bulbs in household trash.

Despite these clean-up and disposal hassles, environmental groups, bulb makers and retailers relentlessly have promoted CFL use as a strategy for reducing electricity consumption and the power plant emissions allegedly causing global warming.

Eco-activist groups, such as Environmental Defense, which historically have agitated to banish toxic substances from homes, workplaces and the environment, surprisingly have said that the mercury in CFLs is nothing to worry about.

But this new posturing flies in the face of the multitude of scary activist-inspired studies that hyperventilate about potential health risks from the slightest exposures to mercury, not to mention a 1987 article in Pediatrics reporting real-life mercury poisoning of a 23-month old from a broken fluorescent light bulb.

Bush and Congress joined the CFL promotion racket, too. The energy bill enacted last December mandates that traditional incandescent bulbs be phased out starting in 2012. CFLs pretty much are the only alternative.

Now here’s the part I was talking about. Mercury bad, but if we can make money, mercury good. As always,
Follow The Money

But while CFL-mandating legislation was pending in Congress, the enviros did a temporary flip-flop: Environmental Defense began pooh-poohing mercury concerns stating, “In short, the exposure from breaking a CFL is in about the same range as the exposure from eating a can or two of tuna fish.”

Two ounces of tuna used to be a horror, but in the name of CFLs, two cans became no problem.

The Associated Press reported in 1992 that fluorescent light bulbs were helping to “poison the Everglades with toxic mercury, threatening humans [and wildlife].”

In December 2000, a Massachusetts newspaper reported in an article entitled “Environmentalists Call for Mercury Product Ban” that the Massachusetts governor had proposed that trash-burning incinerators develop plans to separate fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing consumer products from waste.

The business fantasy is for the nation’s 4 billion-plus light sockets to sport CFLs. There’s much more ka-ching in selling 4 billion $5 light bulbs as opposed to incandescent bulbs costing $0.75. But what about the mercury problem that may impose substantial liabilities on businesses and consumers faster than CFL light bulbs turn on?

First mercury was dangerous. Then, temporarily, it became no big deal. Now that the Greens have caught us in the CFL trap, they’re reverting to form on mercury — all to cause the sort of chaos resulting in increased government control of our lives.

As Johnny Cash sang, “I hear the train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend. …” The question is: Will President Bush and Congress just leave us on the tracks?

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Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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3 Responses

  1. Damn. Maybe that mercury will get rid of the pythons in the ‘glades.

  2. Just to be safe, don’t eat more than two cans of python a week.

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