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801 comments

Does anyone else (5, Insightful)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928707)

..find these energy efficent bulbs really irritating?
I'm all for saving the environment, but I hate the fact the bulbs have a 'warm up' period, and whatever 'colour' bulb I get, it still throws a nasty fluro hue.

Is that just me?

No, I buy nice ones. (5, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928749)

If you buy the cheap ones at department stores, you will be disappointed. Go to a lighting specialist and pay a bit more.

I find this scare-mongering over mercury to be amusing. Have you ever broken an old-school tube flouro? You know, the ones with 10 to 100 times the mercury of modern Compact Flouro bulbs? Yeah.

Re:No, I buy nice ones. (4, Informative)

Internet_Communist (592634) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928975)

Yeah, scare-mongering over mercury is pretty common. I remember when I was a kid I used to break open those little glass-tubes from old thermostats and collect the mercury. Safe? Eh, probably not, but I'm still alive and I don't have mercury poisoning. After all, elemental mercury isn't really the dangerous one anyway, it's organic mercury that's really dangerous, like good 'ol dimethylmercury [wikipedia.org] which even a tiny amount will pass right through a pair of rubber gloves and kill you [wikipedia.org] . Elemental mercury? Mercury vapor accumulating is probably the biggest risk, but I can't imagine the tiny amounts in a CFL being that big of a deal. It sounds like from the article that they had found high levels of mercury vapor, though I still question whether a single CFL bulb is enough to cause the amount of contamination the story claims.

Re:No, I buy nice ones. (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929005)

Have you ever broken an old-school tube flouro? You know, the ones with 10 to 100 times the mercury of modern Compact Flouro bulbs?

I can't tell what you're trying to say here. Are you trying to say the risk of breakage is minimal? Because I've broken both types before. Are you trying to say that the impact is minimal compared to the old ones? That is a stupid argument; if I shoot you, you are not going to invite me to stab you because what the fuck, it's nothing compared to being shot.

Re:No, I buy nice ones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929129)

Yes, I have, two of them at once, over my head. With a sword. Note to self: put better guards over lights when practicing fencing. >

(naturally, the room had a ceiling that was probably too low to be considered safe to begin with. At least we were using wooden wasters and not steel foils).

Lets get this out of the way. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928777)

No it isn't just you. About 50 people say this whenever the words "compact" "florescent" or "lightbulb" come up in an article. And the answer is spend more money. Yes, that's right... the cheapest possible bulbs kinda suck, big surprise. Some brands of compact florescent lightbulbs have no warm up period and give off perfectly balanced light in the visible spectrum and don't flicker at a visible frequency. Other brands take an hour to warm up, have green light, and flicker at 50Hz.

The challenge is finding the cheapest one that you can't tell from a "normal" bulb. Once you do... well then you RTFA for more worries, it seems.

Re:Lets get this out of the way. (4, Interesting)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928877)

I purposely went and bought the most expensive one[s] I could find to try to avoid any potential problems, perhaps I just got a bad brand / type.

The ones I have don't flicker, but have a 30-40 second warm up period, which would be fine if it was an office environment - but in a house - you generally stumble into a room, and flick on the light to avoid tripping over shit, but with the CFLs, you get to vaguely see what you just stubbed your toe on...

Re:Lets get this out of the way. (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929047)

Well, the first thing I thought of when reading this article was...I'd never heard before of a light bulb potentially requiring special 'effort' to dispose of.

Like most people, when something no longer works, it goes in the trash. After the CFL's start making inroads into most houses...will we soon then be forced to take our bulbs to a special disposal unit or be taxed to cover the cost of disposal of these?

Most people do not recycle, do not haul stuff to be disposed of in an orderly, environmentally sensitive way. They throw it in the trash, and the trash man hauls it off to 'somewhere'. Will the mercury in these bulbs make that even worse than it is today?

I'm not really gonna want to buy and use something unless it is economically beneficial to me, or makes life easier.

Re:Does anyone else (3, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928781)


Is that just me?

Yes and no. Your problem is you're grouping all CF bulbs together. Some have horrible colors and a relatively long (.5 to 1 second) warm up time. Others are quite close to incandescents in color, and have an effectively instant warm up time.

Re:Does anyone else (3, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928959)

Some have horrible colors and a relatively long (.5 to 1 second) warm up time

To be fair, some (like the one in my bathroom) have a 1/2 turn on time but then a very long (~1 minute) warm up time. It comes on bright enough (maybe like a 50W incandescent), but after being on for close to a minute it suddenly ramps over a few seconds up to probably 150% of its previous brightness, then stays there.

It's a little weird, but it's not too bad.

(These are made by GE, so they aren't Billy Bob's Light Warehouse brand. I'm sure there are better ones, but there are also a lot of worse ones.)

In contrast, the one I have in my living room lamp (Sylvania) is instant on.

The other thing I've done is in my kitchen and bedroom I have fixtures that have two bulbs. I have 1 CFL and 1 incandescent in each.

Re:Does anyone else (2, Insightful)

ryanov (193048) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928787)

Yes and no. First off, warm up period? Who cares? I've heard it's the same thing with TV's -- these days they always consume a little bit of power so they can be instant on. Honestly, I'm not in so much of a rush that I need to consume extra energy all the time for things like this. 30 seconds is not an unreasonable amount of time to wait for full brightness. You CAN see while the light is not 100% warmed up.

As for color, I mine don't look fluorescent at all. I honestly can't tell the difference until I look directly at the bulb, so I'm not sure what your problem is. The light DOES look different (I could tell that I installed CF's in major fixtures right after I did it), but not a fluoro hue -- in my new place, I can't even tell the difference.

Re:Does anyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928989)

"Yes and no. First off, warm up period? Who cares? I've heard it's the same thing with TV's -- these days they always consume a little bit of power so they can be instant on. Honestly, I'm not in so much of a rush that I need to consume extra energy all the time for things like this. "

I very much agree. If you can't wait 30 seconds for the TV you have a problem either with a T addiction or impatience.

(Ok, maybe very occasionally when you realise you are about to miss the OJ Simpson verdict or something you might want it to come on more quickly, but those instances are rare),

Re:Does anyone else (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928793)

I hate them. This past weekend, my wife and I made the attempt to replace a good number of our bulbs with CFLs. They suck. The "60-watt equivalent" bulbs are dimmer than 60-watt incandescent. The 60-watts don't pause before coming on, but they still have a warm-up period where the brightness increases. The bulbs don't fit in every light fixture. Add in the disposal regulations, and CFLs are worse, as a standard bulb, than incandescent. The only place we've identified where CFLs are useful is in lamps that are on for very extended periods of time, which in our house is two or three places. Everywhere else is keeping the incandescents. I'm glad I don't live in California.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928995)

Don't buy 60-watt-equivalent bulbs, then. If you're concerned about brightness, buy the brightest bulbs available, they'll still use way less than 60 watts of power, and if the peak light output is 150-watt-equivalent then the brightness during the warm-up period is still usually more than the 60-watt bulb you started with.

OK, I suffer somewhat from SAD in the winter, so opt to have as much light around as possible.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

RevWhite (889559) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928805)

I rather like them; they have saved me quite a bit of electricity. All I use electricity for is a refrigerator, lighting, and a couple of PCs, so they saved me about $5 monthly on a $28 bill. I don't really see what people complain about with poor quality light coming from these - they all seem fine to me. As for disposal, just visit http://www.lamprecycle.org/ [lamprecycle.org] for assistance. Also, Xcel Energy [xcelenergy.com] has some coupons to make disposal a bit cheaper. Yes, I know people are going to bitch about having to pay extra to dispose of them, but for me, they've already more than paid for themselves.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928823)

Yes, it's just you. Or rather I should say "just get over it". They are different than standard incandescent light bulbs, but I don't think they should bother you that much. Most of the bulbs that I've seen have a 1-2 second boot up time, but that really doesn't bother me. I don't need to perform neurosurgery within the first few seconds of entering a room. Also, the colour is different, but I find that I doesn't really bother me all that much. I think that in a blind test the most people couldn't even tell the difference between the colours output by the different bulbs.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928831)

Is that just me?

No, it's not just you. I've been really disappointed with CFLs. The older they get, the longer the weird warm-up period gets before they become bright. But maybe it's just us. Other people tell me they don't experience the problem, so I don't know what's going on. Maybe the "better" (how do you tell?) ones don't do it.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928859)

I can't stand CFLs, and it boggles the mind why a bulb that will greatly complicate waste management is so popular among lawmakers and environmental groups. Think about it: instead of having mercury being thrown out by a big power plant, where it is all coming from the same source and can be cleaned up, and where filtering systems and other measures can reduce or eliminate it over time, it is being contained in easily breakable glass structures that will be thrown out and taken to landfills scattered all over the country. Sure, they say you shouldn't throw them out with the trash, but who are they kidding? Most people will put them in the garbage bag, not collect them until they can find a hazardous waste dump site.

Not to mention that they don't give out anything even resembling natural light. I find them too harsh, and I've tried a few of them. I have one in my garage because I don't spend much time in there, but even then I end up having to flip the light switch well before I actually intend to go out there, particularly on cold nights, to allow for the warm up period. Going home to a house full of CFLs after being forced to endure flourescents all day at work would probably drive me crazy.

GE says they're working on more high efficiency incandescents, and hopefully that effort will bear fruit. I just don't see CFLs as a long-term solution. It seems like they are an admission that we're willing to put up with all sorts of other nasty pollutants to get a marginal decrease in greenhouse gases. I don't see that as a good trade-off.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

rs79 (71822) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929051)

The old and cheap ones flicker when they turn on. The newer ones do not. Look at the GE Gen IV for example.

As to the color of the lighht, warm whites (2700K) are near ubiquitous but have a orange/pink glow so they look like incandescents. You can get daylight bulbs in most places (6500K) but they look distinctly blue.

Osram has a new "Ultra Daylight" bulb that is honest to god white. Stick one of each in some fixture and compare for yourself.

Re:Does anyone else (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929087)

..find these energy efficent bulbs really irritating?
I'm all for saving the environment, but I hate the fact the bulbs have a 'warm up' period, and whatever 'colour' bulb I get, it still throws a nasty fluro hue.

Is that just me? Well, the obvious solution is to never turn them off. Bask in the warm glow of ecologically sound mercury filled goodness and hope the every savings justifies it self.

All humor aside... there is a minor warm up period, but this is not a big deal. It is a small price to pay for huge engery savings, even if you need two 22watt CFL bulbs to take the place of 1 100 watt bulb. If those seconds really bug you, then add an incondencent bat-watt bulb to the entry way.

Unhappy? Good for you! (1, Flamebait)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929143)

You should be unhappy. The more unhappy you are, the greater your environmental virtue.

Think of it as penance for the world's energy sins. Let your suffering be a beacon to all the unbelievers, climate change deniers, and evil capitalists out there.

You are one of the virtuous greens. Your sacrifice means hope for us all. You have saved the planet.

How much? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928719)

How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent light bulb?
The midget prostitute on the street corner told me it would be at least $200.
 

How about LEDs then (4, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928729)

What's the pollution/contamination potential for LED-equivalent screw-in bulbs? (Including at the manufacturing level)

Re:How about LEDs then (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928795)

What's the pollution/contamination potential for LED-equivalent screw-in bulbs?

LEDs, unfortunately, are way too dim right now for general-purpose lighting. They make great spotlights, but are lousy in terms in Lumens, and not that great in terms of Lumens/watt (before anyone argues with me, PLEASE compare lumens between LEDs and incandescents or CFLs).

Re:How about LEDs then (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928993)

LEDs, unfortunately, are way too dim right now for general-purpose lighting

How much light do we really need, though?

I think having daylight-equivalent lighting at night is a bit excessive...

Except maybe for work areas like the kitchen, I think most people use way too much lumens.

Re:How about LEDs then (4, Interesting)

malfunct (120790) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929089)

60W incandecent produces about 900 lumens = 15 lumens/watt

13W CFL produces about 900 lumens = 69.2 lumens/watt

2.5W LED bulb produces about 60 lumens = 24 lumens/watt

So by pure numbers the CFL wins but I think there are other things to take into consideration. The LED has highly directional light so its possible that the LED produces more lumens per sq/in in its cone of coverage so would actually be brighter in that area than the CFL which casts light every which way. This would mean that there are applications where the LED would be more efficient due to the fact that a CFL or incandecent is lighting up a far larger area than necessary. Also the LED light should last much longer than the CFL which may be a win. Add to that the fact that I don't think there are the same level of hazadrous wastes in LED's it lets you play some interesting cost/benefit games.

Re:How about LEDs then (3, Interesting)

malfunct (120790) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928825)

I think that there is no Mecury in LED's and need not be any lead the LED's are a win over CFL's in that department. The downside is that currently LED's are either far more expensive or far less bright than CFL's. I looked into it the other day and found that its $30 for a 20 lumen (compared to about 200 lumen for 60W incandecent) LED light bulb and its light was highly directional so not appropriate for standard overhead lighting.

Re:How about LEDs then (3, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928845)

Very low pollution. Most FABs emit water cleaner than they take it in. LEDs can be produced lead free, and indium arsenic levels are exceptionally low.
-nB

Re:How about LEDs then (1)

AsmCoder8088 (745645) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928869)

I don't know... but they sure look cool! [thinkgeek.com] I'm thinking we should just opt for UV lighting [unitednuclear.com] instead; unfortunately they don't yet have a model that screws into the typical socket :(

Re:How about LEDs then (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928883)

I think the widespread banning of incandescents might accelerate the rush to develop more powerful and affordable LED lamps (although these are extremely complicated to manufacture). My concern is that CF bulbs require substantially more energy to manufacture, and nowhere in North America seems to have proper disposal facilities. They have other problems, too: (1) they overheat in closed fixtures. This might force people to replace perfectly good ceiling fixtures - hardly environmental. (2) CF bulbs are not designed for short on cycles. They're a poor choice for a hallway where the light is only turned on for a minute or two, or in a laundry room. (3) no matter what manufacturers claim, they just don't give the same warm light as incandescents - although this is something we'll get used to.

My biggest fear is that we're simply shifting energy consumption to the manufacturing/disposal part of the product lifecycle (and why the hell are these "green" bulbs sold in plastic blister packs?).

There is no free lunch, kids (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928737)

Once again we see that every environmental action involves a trade-off of some kind. Sometimes it means loss of job (as in the timber industry), sometimes it means annoyance and inconvenience (as with "low flow" toilets and showerheads), etc. But there is ALWAYS a trade-off. Contrary to what some environmentalists would have us believe, there is always a price to be paid for the "Green" life. And sometimes the price is ultimately more damaging to society and the environment than its worth.

Re:There is no free lunch, kids (3, Informative)

PsychosisC (620748) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928889)

The article is a bit too one-sided on the mercury issue.

From CFL's wiki entry [wikipedia.org] :

Note that coal power plants are the "the largest uncontrolled industrial source of mercury emissions in Canada". According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (when coal power is used) the mercury released from powering an incandescent bulb for five years exceeds the total of (a) the mercury released by powering a comparably luminous CFL for the same period and (b) the mercury contained in the lamp. It should be noted, however that the "EPA is implementing policies to reduce airborne mercury emissions. Under regulations issued in 2005, coal-fired power plants will need to reduce their emissions by 70 percent by 2018.". This change will lengthen the term before CFLs are better than incandescents. If CFLs are recycled and the mercury reclaimed, the equation tilts towards CFLs, and if non-coal sources of electricity are used, the equation tilts toward incandescents.

Re:There is no free lunch, kids (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929109)

If CFLs are recycled and the mercury reclaimed, the equation tilts towards CFLs

hahAHaHahaHAHAHAHA!

Many major US cities still don't even have curbside recycling for lucrative materials like aluminum.

The vast majority of people won't recycle anything that they can't do at their curbside.

Almost everyone left will recycle something only if they need to in order to keep the waste out of their yard (dirty oil and coolant, for example) or if there is a sizable deposit that they need to recover. Which means that the vast majority of CFLs are going right into the trash. Which means that the equation is tilted significantly towards incandescents.

Re:There is no free lunch, kids (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928973)

I don't think it is as bad as you think.

Burning coal emits mercury into the atmosphere too, among other nasty things. Last I heard, a CFL has a lower net mercury effect than the burning of coal to light the equivalent number of incandescents over the equivalent life of a CFL.

bullshit (1, Informative)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928747)

a 170 gram can of tuna containst aboul half the mercury as a CF bulb, and YOU EAT THE TUNA. this is either a scam or a fake article.

Re:bullshit (4, Funny)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928783)

also, the FDA says a pregnant woman is safe eating two cans of tuna every week without harming her baby, or taking hits off one broken CF bulb per week.

Re:bullshit (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928847)

The High Quality CFL's produced today have amalgam filling [fullspectr...utions.com] that prevents this. Also studies have found that a standard Incandescent bulb puts 10 times as much mercury into the environment because of coal power consumption.

Re:bullshit (-1, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928979)

The High Quality CFL's produced today have amalgam filling that prevents this.

From your link:

"All BlueMax(TM) CFLs are made with special amalgam technology where the mercury content is held within the amalgam fill of the bulb and will not "spill out". This amalgam fill/alloy structure is the same as is used in dentistry for tooth fillings."

Well, you have made an extraordinarily ignorant statement. Well, it's ordinary for a cowardly anonymous slashbot. Studies have shown both that mercury content in your teeth is less at the time of your death than at the time of insertion, meaning that mercury leaches out of your fillings, and that mercury content is higher in the brains and other organs of persons with mercury amalgam fillings than those without, meaning that the mercury leaching out of your teeth is ending up accumulating in your body.

So in other words, the mercury amalgam used for tooth fillings doesn't keep the mercury bound up. So it doesn't do what you say. It doesn't protect us from mercury contamination.

Also studies have found that a standard Incandescent bulb puts 10 times as much mercury into the environment because of coal power consumption.

No, no they haven't. The bulb doesn't put the mercury into the environment. The power plant does that. And when you improve the output of the power plant, then all things that use it (including incandescent lamps) effectively become more "green".

The proper solution is to further regulate power generation and force them to reduce their emissions. Forcing people to use CFL lamps is just a bullshit attempt to make people believe that you're doing something to improve the environment. But the person with the 20 bedroom house with lights on in all of them to impress the neighbors will still needlessly be using many times the amount of power as the one person with one or two incandescents turned on in their one-bedroom house, and THAT is the problem that needs to be addressed.

Re:bullshit (1)

M-G (44998) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929113)

Studies have shown both that mercury content in your teeth is less at the time of your death than at the time of insertion, meaning that mercury leaches out of your fillings, and that mercury content is higher in the brains and other organs of persons with mercury amalgam fillings than those without, meaning that the mercury leaching out of your teeth is ending up accumulating in your body.

Well, you're not going to be keeping the broken bulb in your mouth for most of your life either.

"The proper solution is to further regulate power generation and force them to reduce their emissions. Forcing people to use CFL lamps is just a bullshit attempt to make people believe that you're doing something to improve the environment."

Except reducing power plant emissions only tackles one part of the equation. By reducing energy consumption, a CFL not only means fewer pollutants, but fewer greenhouse gases, less pollution moving the coal to the power plant, etc.

Re:bullshit (4, Informative)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928851)

The permitted mercury content of tuna in Canada is 0.5 part per million, so a 170-gram tin contains at most 85 micrograms of the stuff, about a factor sixty less than the lightbulb.

I think this is more a story about how good we are at detecting minuscule quantities of material, and how political requirements tend to be of the form that the allowable amount of a dangerous material should be a small multiple of the detection limit; I would wager that the health damage caused by the stress of being told to find two thousand dollars to decontaminate your living room is significantly greater than any that could possibly be caused by five milligrams of mercury vapour.

Still if you eat it every week (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929077)

If you eat a can of tuna once a week then you'd consume as much mercury as eating a CF light bulb.

I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to eat tuna every week, but I'm pretty sure that more people eat tuna weekly than eat CF bulbs.

Of course if you run an Incandesant from a coal-burning power station then i'm sure you'll end up causing many times more mercury to be released into the environment.

Consider the source (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928921)

This should not be ignored, FTA:

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRWatch.com. He is a junk-science expert and advocate of free enterprise, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute's benefactors [sourcewatch.org] are a who's who of massive corporate polluters, including the American Plastics Council, Chlorine Chemistry Council, Amoco, Texaco and ExxonMobil. Looks like General Electric is now using them to do their dirty work too.

Re:bullshit (5, Informative)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928961)

a 170 gram can of tuna containst aboul half the mercury as a CF bulb, and YOU EAT THE TUNA. this is either a scam or a fake article.

Despite the moderators who think that this is informative, it's false. According to http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-mehg.html [fda.gov] , canned albacore tuna has a mercury concentration of about 0.353 ppm. The "canned, light" tuna is listed as being about a third of that, but I'll go with the higher number to give you the benefit of the doubt. Working it out, that means that 170 grams of canned tuna has about 60 micrograms of mercury. That is about 1.2% as much as the 5 milligrams of mercury in a typical CF bulb -- nowhere close to 50%

Re:bullshit (4, Interesting)

rs79 (71822) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929099)

Did you check out the "credentials" of the FA author and his friends? You'll find things like global warming doesn't exists, junk food is good for you, it's healthy to be fat and so on and so forth.

It's big busines' wet dream website.

Wonder whose paying him?

FUD - UrbanLegend (4, Informative)

lupine (100665) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928761)

This is an urban legend propagated by conservative propaganda sites. Good thing we have editors to filter this stuff out for us...

There is very little mercury in CFLs, you are in more danger of getting cut by the glass than you are of getting mercury poisoning.
http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/c hange_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf [energystar.gov]

I switched my house to CFLs and started saving $15-20 per month. If everyone did this then the big power companies would see a dent in their bottom line and so they start spreading lies like this.

Re:FUD - UrbanLegend (1)

cje (33931) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928943)

The idea that big power companies want everybody to use as much electricity as possible is fallacious. Sure, high electricity use translates into a high monthly bills, but it's not like the power company generates the electricity from thin air. There are obvious costs involved with generating the electricity in the first place, and too much usage introduces bigger problems -- infrastructure upgrades, the need to build new plants, etc.

I would suspect that most electric providers would be quite pleased if all of their customers reduced their monthly usage by 30% or so. Around here, the electric companies are the biggest proponents of CFLs and other energy-saving measures.

Re:FUD - UrbanLegend (4, Interesting)

Tom Womack (8005) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928971)

Certainly there are urban legends around which are propagated by conservative propaganda sites.

But that there are five milligrams of Hg in a compact-fluorescent lightbulb is not one of them; in particular, the link that you provided admits that.

I too have a house full of CFLs - people complaining that 60-watt-equivalent CFLs are too dim are taking slightly the wrong approach, CFLs are so much more efficient than incandescent lights that you can put, into a fitting that can only handle 60 watts of heat, a 23-watt CFL which is equivalent to a 150-watt incandescent. My study is lit with three 23-watt CFLs, which provides a really excellent reading light ... with the low power consumption, you can use cheapest-available desk lamps to put the bulbs in, and place them wherever's convenient.

Re:FUD - UrbanLegend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928997)

Funny how conservatives don't believe in conserving. You'd think they would just by the name. Since when did the right become the pro-waste idiology? I thought frugality was one of the beloved American values.

Re:FUD - UrbanLegend (5, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929045)

This is an urban legend propagated by conservative propaganda sites.
Like the National Post [wikipedia.org] , which is where TFA is.

The National Post isn't as ardently neo-con as it used to be, since the backlash against conservatism made it wholly unprofitable to be so -- but it's still known to be far from objective.

If anything, the National Post leans libertarian conservative, so anything they can print to discredit goverment "interference" and the environmental movement, such as this FUD article about the potential financial nightmare of breaking a CFB, is on board with their philosophy.

What bothers me is that the less sceptical people who read the article will simply discredit environmentally sound policies even more than they do already.

Re:FUD - UrbanLegend (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929049)

This is an urban legend propagated by conservative propaganda sites. Good thing we have editors to filter this stuff out for us...
Conservative propaganda? Here's an NPR article [npr.org] about the same thing. I don't know how dangerous 5mg of mercury in a room really is, but I can easily imagine some government agency demanding an expensive cleanup for it.

Eye opening article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18928767)

Not at all surprising that the manufs and retailers are pushing these. Nice profit stream for all of them. However, it's mind boggling (or unfortunately not, depending on your POV) that the enviros actually support this. Forget what happens if you mistakingly break on of these things, just wait 10 years when they will start going out in droves and start stock piling in our landfills. I'm sure the enviros will then start pointing fingers at the manufs and retailers.

Hazmat (4, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928807)

Last year, a local middle school was locked down and a hazmat team was called in. The kids were kept locked inside for several hours after the normal release time, cause someone had inadvertently dropped and broken a mercury thermometer OUTSIDE the school.

Times have changed, I remember rolling around blobs of mercury on lab tables in school.

Re:Hazmat (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929121)

Lol, same. Although I'm probably a bit younger then you: We had a jar full of mercury and weren't supposed to roll it around on our tables. But on one of the tables the lid "came off accidentally". By the end of class we were crawling around with rulers trying to get the stuff back together.

Good stuff.

Someone needs an environmental Chil Pill... (2, Funny)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928827)

6x higher than very low state standards?

Just take a fan and blow out the room for a couple of days.

Steven Milloy (5, Interesting)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928837)

He's the Junk Science guy, which means that you ought to take this entire article with a mountain of salt. Even with the mercury in the CFL, you're ahead of the game when you consider the energy savings. A lot of electricity is produced with coal, and that puts out more mercury than the CFL contains over the life of the bulb.

But there's a lesson here - if you break a CFL, open the windows and clean it up yourself. Don't lick the floor where it broke. Don't gnaw on the pieces of broken glass. Don't scrape the coating from the inside of the bulb, dissolve it in vodka, and inject it into your neck. Use common sense.

There's no need to call the government to help you clean up a broken lightbulb. This woman deserves what she gets, just for wasting people's time. The bureaucrats probably don't want to mess with her house either, but they are *doing what they are paid to do* and if they didn't take care of the reported problem, someone could accuse them of not doing their job.

how about a drop off? (4, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928843)

will Walmart, Homedepot, etc be offering s drop off for old burned out CFLs(yes they do burn out too) like autozone does for old oil and batteries?

Re:how about a drop off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929013)

will Walmart, Homedepot, etc be offering s drop off for old burned out CFLs(yes they do burn out too) like autozone does for old oil and batteries?

This is already the case outside the US: most shops selling CFLs in Europe have to collect them. In the US, some shops (IKEA) collect them as well. I hope that Wal*mart and others will follow.

Re:how about a drop off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929135)

Yes, actually. The Lowes, Kroger, and Walgreens here have a plastic box and cardboard wrap to drop off CF Lightbulbs and the ones that they sell at Lowes have a sticker letting people know that the light has Mercury in it and that it has to be brought back to the store at the end of the lightbulb's life. The sticker even makes the motor oil parallel.

I have not seen these stickers in Knoxville, next big town down the street.

LED lights? (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928871)

How long do we need to wait for reasonably priced LED light bulbs? I figure the electrical will be significantly less than even CFLs, so how do they stack up now? I mean, if CFLs are saving us 150 bucks a year in electricity, would LEDs save us that much more? If so, I assume at even their current price they'll end up saving us money over 10 years or so (plus you don't replace an LED bulb I assume).

$10 for 6 (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928873)

I got 6 for $10 at Lowes and these turned out a little brighter than the last batch I bought. Seems to me a drop cloth would be a reasonable precaution if working over carpet. People from California have posted that CFLs are recycled there. Is that happening elsewhere?
--
Light up your life with solar: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

Re:$10 for 6 (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928925)

Seems to me a drop cloth would be a reasonable precaution if working over carpet.

So you put down a drop cloth every time you replace a light bulb?

Are you the most boring person on earth, or what?

Why just focus on CFLs? (1)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928881)

Why are alkaline batteries and thermometers, not included in this article?

Also, it's the stupidity displayed by the authorities involved that is biggest public safety concern in my opinion!

Down the Rabbit Hole we go! (5, Interesting)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928887)

Have you ever heard the term "Mad as a Hatter"? Maybe, but you probably do know who the Mad Hatter is.

Mad as a Hatter is a term that stems from "Hatters" (hat makers) using Mercury in the formation of hats. It was used in the process of removing hair from animal hides. All the hatters ultimately went insane or had the other symptons of mercury poisioning.

That's where the term comes from, and that's where the idea for the "Mad Hatter" came from for Alice in Wonderland. What does this have to do with the article? Nothing really, just trying to spread some random information.

And Hatter's Castle is a wonderful novel (1)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929003)

As long as we are trying to spread random information ... the issue of mercury induced madness in hatters is a key element of the novel.

The author (4, Insightful)

mike449 (238450) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928905)

The author of TFA is Steven Milloy, who publishes JunkScience.com. It is devoted to "debunking the global warming myth", telling the truth about virtues of dioxin and to other similar issues.
The site is an obvious propaganda mouthpiece.

They claim longer life, but not true in practice. (1)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928917)

Been using the fluorescent light bulbs for a few years now, and while they use less power, the do cost more, and unlike what is promised on the package, they need replacement as often as the incandescent kind, in my experience, so probably a wash in terms of lifetime cost.

Re:They claim longer life, but not true in practic (1)

Tofystedeth (1076755) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929041)

If you get the Energy Star rated ones they will be replaced if they burn out within 2 years if I recall from the Energy Star fact sheet.

Re:They claim longer life, but not true in practic (2, Interesting)

Steveftoth (78419) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929095)

The problem is that the fluorescent bulbs have only so many power-on/off cycles in them. they last much longer if you don't turn them on/off all the time and just leave them on constantly. However, in a home environment that is less likely. Especially since people have been trained to shut off lights when leaving rooms to save electricity.

I really don't have a good solution to this problem. I don't know if there is, maybe automatic controls of the lights that don't turn off so much?

The original article is much less strident (3, Interesting)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928931)

and includes comments from several officials, saying that this incident was nothing to get worked up about.
http://ellsworthmaine.com/site/index.php?option=co m_content&task=view&id=7446&Itemid=31 [ellsworthmaine.com]

And for those who are concerned about CFL mercury in the waste stream -- CFLs are nothing more than smaller versions of the fluorescent tubes we have been throwing in our landfills since the 50s. That's right, every industial building and school in the US uses them and has for the last 50 years. So, the problem isn't new. And the white powder isn't mercury...it's the phosphor. That's not to say that recycling them wouldn't be a really good idea. It's being done commercially, but not yet for consumers in most places.

high-efficiency incandescent (1)

bobbonomo (997543) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928949)

Amazingly GE announced in February that they can produce "incandescent bulb to match compact fluorescents". Amazing what a bit of competition can do or is this just a scam to brake CFLs.
Wonder how long they have been sitting on this one? Anyone know if they have shares in the electricity companies?
http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-6162567-7.html [com.com]

U$ 2.000 is the environmental cleanup charge (5, Interesting)

Acer500 (846698) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928965)

According to the article, after breaking the lightbulb in her daughter's bedroom, Mrs Bridges called Home Depot which directed her to Poison Control hotline which directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which sent a specialist.

The specialist found an unacceptable quantity of mercury (six times the "safe" level), and directed Mrs Bridges to a cleanup firm that gave the U$ 2.000 estimate (way high in my opinion, is it that hard to clean?).

Insurance, as usual, won't cover it (sounds reasonable this time).

An interesting point is that each CFL contains five milligrams of mercury, and Maine's "safety" standard is 300 nanograms per cubic meter.

By comparison, according to Wikipedia, "the typical "fever thermometer" contains between 0.5 to 3 g (.3 to 1.7 dr) of elemental mercury."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury-in-glass_ther mometer [wikipedia.org]

She could have saved some money by reading this:

"Cleaning Up Small Mercury Spills, For spills of less than two tablespoons:" by the government of Michigan
http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3307_2969 3_4175-11751--,00.html [michigan.gov]

or this (PDF warning) http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/smallspil ls.pdf [newmoa.org]

Not every CFL has that much mercury:

http://www.lighting.philips.com/gl_en/news/press/s ustainability/archive_2006/reduction_in_mercury.ph p?main=global&parent=4390&id=gl_en_news&lang=en [philips.com]

Still, it's good to be warned and be aware about the potential environmental hazard.

Schitzoid (5, Informative)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928967)

I went to an art-show/Earth Day event a couple blocks from my house Saturday (yes, our town has it a week late). They had representatives of various environmental and recycling organizations.

The sign-in sheet had a place to check a box "pledging" to convert one incandescent lamp to flourescent. So I asked about where to return them when they die. After all, safe and convenient disposal is a critical component of encouraging their use.

Man, you would have thought I was watching roaches scurry when the light came on.

Dump them in the trash? No! - that's illegal dumping of toxic waste.

Save them and take them to the thrice-yearly e-waste event? No! - they are specifically prohibited.

Take them to the recycling center a couple blocks from my house? No! - "We're supposed to be self-supporting and the permit cost would bankrupt us."

Pretty much the only option provided was to wait for the "convenient" once-a-month Saturday the waste facility is open, put the burned-out bulb in my car, drive a half-dozen miles to the waste facility (they were helpful in telling me how to get to the facility while dodging the most dangerous parts of Richmond), wait in line (start/stop engine repeatedly or idle constantly), fill out paperwork, hand them the bulb, drive a half-dozen miles back home.

If that's the best the powers-that-be can come up with, they shouldn't be surprised that CFL adoption is less than they hoped. With cans, bottles and electronics they tack on a recycling fee up-front. And any store that sells ni-cads is required to accept them for recycling. Seems like a couple ideas that should be considered for flourescents.

Re:Schitzoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929145)

Or just drop it off at the Richmond Ikea when you are in the area.

Schizophrenia (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928981)

I like this one: Greenpeace also recommends CFLs while simultaneously bemoaning contamination caused by a mercury-thermometer factory in India.


This is how schizophrenic our society is. People in different camps, all with their little agendas, bark at each other without realizing how inconsistent and stupid they are. It is like the convservative republican pro-lifers who wouldn't think twice about putting someone on the death row, or the liberal pro-choicers who campaign to save the hungry dying children in Africa but could give a rat's ass about a child who is not born yet. Most of all individuals just take the easy way out and allign themsevles with a big horde of others for the protection and the comfy feeling of belonging and being able to think of things in terms of 'us' as opposed to 'I'. That means unquestionably addopting the default agenda without thinking about. And by 'horde' I mean not just a political party but also a company, organization or in fact, any community. (Yes... slashdot is also one such 'horde' with {linux, google, cowboyneal} = good, {sco,microsoft} = bad, {everything else} = funny / irrelevant).


Was it really hard for EPA to think, "Hmm, we are recommending this new product, it is easily breakable, I wonder what happens if someone breaks it...?" isn't that what they are payed to to do. Ironically enough, I wouldn't blame Wal-Mart. I know they don't give a shit about environment or other stuff like that, they just want to make an extra buck _now_ and with each one of those bulbs costing around $5, that is more than just an 'extra' buck. At least they are consistent...

Warning: this post contains fine grains of NaCl (5, Insightful)

frankie (91710) | more than 6 years ago | (#18928985)

  1. The article is NOT a news piece, it's an op/ed essay. Its author, Steven Milloy, is better known as the owner of JunkScience.com [sourcewatch.org] , and is presenting CFLs in the worst possible light.
  2. The Bridges family is out $2000 (and this sensationalist story consequently exists at all) mainly because whoever they talked to at Maine poison control hotline went way overboard. EPA recommendations [epa.gov] say that a small amount of mercury (5mg qualifies as small) can easily be cleaned up by a normal person without much trouble.

Media Hype Battle to the DEATH (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929017)

It's a media hype battle to the death. Your excessive energy use is going to destroy the Earth, so you have to install these bulbs, which contain evil mercury which will destroy the Earth. What should we do? Won't someone in the press tell us?

I'm moving outside into a tent until the press tells us how to avoid certain death.

I wonder why anyone pays attention to the media any more?

strange timing (1)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929021)

Its not like flourescent lighting is new. You dont dispose of them in 16,000 meters of soil, you recycle them!

And where was this philanthropist when flourescent bulbs were introduced into the market? I didn't see him calling for them to be banned.

As for breaking bulbs perhaps if this is enough of an issue they could put those bulbs inside some of that indestructable plastic that they package ear buds or compact flash cards in. You know, the ones which requires the jaws of life to get opened.

For that matter, the bulbs COME packaged in the very same material, you can sit there dropping it all day and it wont break. it would be rather trivial to make bulbs in a bubble of the same material which would make them virtually indestructable to accidental leakage short of running them over with your car or stabbing them with a ginsu knife, and decrease the environmental impact from accidental breakage to minimal levels. The recycling issue can be easily handled with regulations requiring deposits for the bulbs, similar to pop bottles. Since these bulbs save so much money on power costs there is some room to implement a robust solution and still make economic sense.

The new laws "against incandescents" are generally written to simply require a certain degree of efficiency. Manufacturers are free to use incandescence if they can figure out a way to do it efficiently (which being pretty much physically impossible will likely never happen). However, as it is, no one is mandating CFL, they are simply banning inefficient light sources. LED's can be used. and who knows what will be invented next.

If CFL's are so dangerous... (1)

HycoWhit (833923) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929027)

Inventory gets broken all the time in places like Wal-Mart and Home Depot--including florescent bulbs. It would seem if there truly in a risk of mercury poisoning the retails selling the bulbs would be at the highest risk. To date I have never heard of any business evacuating a store because of a florescent bulb braking. Much less a Haz-Mat team performing the clean up.

Please Turn in Your Fillings (1)

zentec (204030) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929029)

If the author were really concerned about mercury, he'd spend his time worry about the mercury in dental amalgam. That mercury is in your mouth, it turns into vapor which is easily absorbed through breathing or through contact with food and saliva and probably has far more health consequences than breaking 100 CFL bulbs and walking through the mess with your bare feet.

Overreaction? (3, Insightful)

proxima (165692) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929059)

The amount of mercury in CFLs is quite small. The concern is their buildup in landfills. Still, if your electricity comes from coal, the energy savings from using a CFL involves substantially less mercury than using an incandescent. In addition, the coal power plants spew pollution into the air.

As the Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] notes, this calculation changes because of two trends. Better environmental controls on coal plants make the mercury used in CFLs worse, while greater adoption of recycling makes CFLs better.

Aside from concerns about aesthetics (I don't like incandescent lighting much, but YMMV), this is really one of the last complaints about CFLs. The article was a poorly researched rant about how environmentalists are hypocrites and things which seem "green" really aren't. Sometimes that's true, but with CFLs, it's almost a no-brainer.

Take, for example, the EPA's factsheet [nema.org] on CFLs. It suggests that this person mentioned in TFA overreacted to the light bulb break. The instructions for cleanup are:

Safe cleanup precautions: If a CFL breaks in your home, open nearby windows to disperse any vapor that may escape, carefully sweep up the fragments (do not use your hands) and wipe the area with a disposable paper towel to remove all glass fragments. Do not use a vacuum. Place all fragments in a sealed plastic bag and follow disposal instructions above.

We're talking about 4mg of mercury here, compared with 500mg in a thermometer.

Basically, CFLs should be recycled to reap all of the environmental benefits. If you buy replacements for burned out bulbs (a rare event), just store the old bulb in the new packaging (they tend to be resealable). Wait until you have a number of them to recycle, and then do it. This isn't the first consumer item we should be treating like this: rechargeable batteries (especially lithium-ion) should be recycled as well. I have several dead laptop batteries which await eventual recycling. For that matter, items like CRT monitors have lead in them, and should also be recycled properly.

So the article is just FUD about what should be an easy choice for anyone who doesn't mind the aesthetics of CFLs.

"Better" CFLs? (2)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929079)

Several people have mentioned getting "better" CFLs, for those of us who have had crappy experiences with the bulbs. Nobody has mentioned brands or models. My question, then, is for those of you who say we need to try the "better" bulbs, what are you talking about, exactly? "Better" doesn't tell me what I should be looking for.

Where to get objective info? (2)

tji (74570) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929127)

A quick search on this shows a lot of polarized information.. Depending on the writer's bias, CFLs are either evil and nasty or the savior of humanity. It's like getting news from Ann Coulter and Michael Moore.

The pro-CFLs say more mercury will be released by powering an incandescent bulb. But, not all power is from Coal plants, and what about the so-called "Clean Coal", which presumably reduces the amount of mercury pollution?

How does the 4-5mg of Mercury compare to other household or common industrial sources?

How about comparisons with recent improvements in incandescents, or improvements in LED lighting?

I already use CFLs. But, when I first bought them I wasn't aware of the possible hazards. I don't know what local options I have for disposal.

I call shinanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929137)

First off I have broken mercury thermometers with WAY more mercury than a light bulb... called poison control and they said "don't eat it; clean it up with rubber gloves and a rag and put it in a bag and throw it away and you will be fine".

Second, for people that say the CFLs don't last as long as advertised - it may be true, but they do use less electricity. If they do break before 5 or 7 years just call the number on the package... there is a number on the light bulb you read to them and they will send a new one in the mail. I got a multi-pack with 2 bad bulbs in it... one didn't work out of the package and another popped after about 2 months... they had bad ballasts. I called and they sent me new ones. No others have broken, but if they do I will call and get new ones.

Hybrid bubs? (2, Interesting)

Beer_Smurf (700116) | more than 6 years ago | (#18929141)

Maybe there needs to be a combo bulb/fixture that uses LEDs to fill in during the warm up of the compact fluorescent?

She's Getting Taken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18929147)

The amount of mercury in a CFL isn't a significant danger. There's more mercury in the air from your local coal power plant (although over a much broader area than a bedroom).

She should follow the EPA and Energy Star's advice instead of Home Depot and local rip-off artists: Open a window, close the door, and stay out of the room for an hour or two. Then come in and clean the carpet with some wet towels if you're worried.

If she broke an old style thermostat (mercury switch) she shouldn't be this worried. And they contain something like a hundred times as much mercury.

Mercury is dangerous, but it's not *this* dangerous.

Environmentalists like CFL's because they realize there's less mercury in a CFL than the amount released into the air by a normal amount of coal power plants. It never ceases to amaze me how journalists believe environmentalists are unrealistic retarded wackos who want us all to sleep with the bears.
Some of them are just rational people who don't like waste.
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