Mercury released in the breaking of one compact fluorescent light bulb is 10 times the recommended exposure amount for adults. Mercury is also released in the manufacturing of compact fluorescent bulbs and inevitably in the disposal. Although many believe that the energy saving and carbon reduction benefit of using compact fluorescent bulbs is greater than the health hazards, scientists disagree.
In a report published online by the Environmental Science and Technology in May 2008, researchers report that one single compact florescent bulb broken in a 10 x 10 room (unventilated) is 10 times higher than the recommended exposure amount for an adult. Plant workers are exposed every time a bulb is broken during the manufacturing process. Mercury is absorbed primarily by inhalation. 80% of inhaled mercury is absorbed into the body. Children are even more susceptible than adults to the toxic effects of mercury and the recommended exposure amount for a child is about 1/5th of the amount of an adult.
Mercury can be cleaned off of hard surfaces, but it cannot be removed from porous surfaces such as carpeting. Over time the mercury in a porous surface such as carpeting will continue to release toxic fumes and may even spread to other areas by people tracking it with their feet. If a compact florescent bulb is broken on a porous surface it is recommended that the surface be removed and thrown out. Vacuum cleaners can keep mercury inside and continue to release its vapors.
Although there are very few documented cases of mercury poisoning in children or adults scientists are quick to point out that many of the effects of mercury poisoning cannot be easily diagnosed.
Mercury toxins are ending up in our water supply and in marine wildlife, especially fish. This mercury is eventually making its way into consumers of these items. It is reported by the International Program for Chemical Safety that this highly dangerous chemical is found in one in every twelve women of childbearing age in levels higher than the recommended safe exposure amount by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers reports that 98% of compact florescent bulbs are not recycled. There is a huge concern about the contamination from landfills of nearby lakes and streams.
Although manufacturers have made attempts to reduce the mercury in compact florescent bulbs, the researchers of this study point out that it has not helped reduce contamination.
Everyone agrees that energy conservation is top priority, however only safe energy conservation should be accepted and applied.
Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
International Program for Chemical Safety
Environmental Protection Agency
The Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers