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CFL toxicity

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This thread is for talking about the "CFL Toxicity" segment of my CFL Fluorescent light bulbs are a RIP OFF! article.


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peter dublin


Joined: Feb 22, 2011
Posts: 38


Maybe of interest on this
http://ceolas.net/#li19x

The CFL Mercury Issue
Breakage -- Recycling -- Dumping -- Mining -- Manufacturing -- Transport -- Power Plants

Re last  section power plants,

there's often talk that "coal power plant release is worse..."
(implying that greater incandescent energy use in turn gives more mercury emissions etc)
not so..

In a nutshell:

1. We know where the ever decreasing local coal power plant chimneys are and we already treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency at lower costs.
2. Compare that with a broken CFL at home, with mercury release on the spot.
3. Also compare that with future billions of scattered broken CFLs elsewhere, when we do not know where all the broken lights will be, and so it is much harder and often impossible to do anything about them.
4. Also compare that with any recycled CFLs, with its own mercury release, including the mercury release from any shipping transport back to China for new CFL manufacturing.


Erik Green


Joined: Aug 21, 2010
Posts: 50
Location: California
we need to get a recycling-buy back program in places.

$2-$3 per unbroken bulb.

They will stack up in a quick hurry, used or otherwise.


[Thumbnail for flour trash 2.jpg]

                            


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Asturias - Spain
Worrying to say the least. I just learned about the mercury in them and considering to replace the ones I have at home. For chrissake, we are talking about friggin' light bulbs, they break if you just look at them sideways! Now I cannot stop thinking  how I would clean the mess if one breaks over the sofa, the bed, the cooking wares, the computers (with their air blowers blowing the evil dust in and out).

http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.pdf
http://www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeown.../appendixe.pdf
http://www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/cflreport.htm

If these things were written on the package I doubt many people would buy them. I definitely would not.
T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
It's unconscionable that they are sold with ZERO clean up or disposal info on the package and the people selling them have no clue either (I spent hours on the phone looking for clean up info when I broke one over our bed). Of the 4 lighting departments I called, not one of them even knew the bulbs had mercury in them. I sounded like a crazy lady freaking out over how to clean up a simple little broken light bulb. It was enlightening to say the least.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I've had CFLs for more than 8 years.  I've never had one break.  I am not worried about the small amount of mercury.  You get more mercury in a serving of fish.  Not to mention, it is not bio-available mercury, like what comes out of the coal plant's exhaust.

Not that it really matters for me, as I am completely off-grid, all solar power.  Incandescents are not an option for me.  LED's are becoming a decent alternative.


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T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
Vaporized mercury (as in from a hot bulb) is very dangerous. But if you aren't prone to breaking bulbs they seem a good choice for you. I break bulbs, and dishes, and other things. With small people underfoot (and their toys, ouch!) it's easy to be clumsy.
And I don't eat fish .
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Vaporized non-bioactive mercury is not relatively dangerous.  How often do you handle light bulbs?  I've handled mine once in 8 years, and that was during installation.  I make sure to be careful during installation, but after that, I am not handling them, so it doesn't really matter.

If you are really afraid of them, then go LEDs.
T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
You have a good source for bulbs then, the CFL's I have used burn out just as quickly as regular bulbs it seems. In many different houses too so I don't think it's faulty wiring.
I've been reading up on LED's and they are made with just as much toxic matter if not more. For me energy consumption is only one issue, the environmental impact of their manufacture and disposal is just as important. I'm really considering hurricane lamps and candles. I have little ones so going to bed with them every night is actually an option. I can do yoga in the morning darkness very easily and make tea by candle light. I realize that's not viable for everyone but my inclinations are getting more and more rustic  the longer I envision our ideal life. My oldest is just this side of young enough to accept those sorts of changes if I make them very soon...
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Mine are all 12 volt models, I don't know if that matters.  I just bought the cheapest ones I could find.  I never seen anyone with one burned out, even the 110V models.  I guess you are getting defective ones.

I've been reading up on LED's and they are made with just as much toxic matter if not more.
I find that hard to believe.  Do you have a respectable source for that? 

LED's are extremely hard to break, I've made my own several times.  They are basically plastic, no gasses or anything like that.  If you take one in the jaws of some channel lock pliers, you can break them, but other than that, forget about it.  I've dropped them from a second story onto concrete, and nothing happens.

What about environmental impact of the fuel for producing the energy to produce and run them?  To me, that is a much bigger issue, mainly because the impact is so much larger and destructive.  If something lasts longer (LED's should last 100,000 hours+) less energy and dangerous chemicals are used in the manufacturing....

Candles have the added benefit of being able to be manufactured by you.  If you have bees (if you don't, consider getting some), you can make beeswax candles very easily.  But candles also pollute, and right in the house, nonetheless!  The point being that there is no perfect solution, just less harmful.

T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
Here's a recent link about LED's http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110211/sc_ac/7837372_leds_filled_with_toxic_substances_study_says

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
To get at the substances, they had to grind up the LED's.  This would never happen in a normal use of a light bulb. 

The computer you are reading this on has several times the toxic substances as an LED lightblub.  But most of us are not grinding up our laptops and eating them.  That goes for the lightbulbs as well.  Even though they MAY contain these substances, that does ot mean we are in danger of being contaminated by them.

The study fails to describe how available those substances are.  Instead, they claim the LEDs "contain" the substances, and could pose a contamination risk, but fail to show how those substances encased in inert plastics would be able to contaminate anything.

So, basically, avoid purposefully grinding your LEDs into a dust that you then consume!
T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
For me this is an issue of production and disposal. I know they all use gross crap and are made in factories and lots of candles are full of garbage too. Just looking for the best possible solution that is the most doable for me. This will of course differ for everyone.
As for computers, at least they can be recycled? I don't know that there is a viable alternative to those so they will continue to be a necessary evil.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
My issue with all of this is practical risk vs theoretical risk.  The theoretical risk says CFLs have mercury gas and that LEDS have arsenic and lead, thus making them all very dangerous for our home.  The practical risk says that if you are not grinding them up and putting them in your morning coffee, then you're probably ok.

Disposal is not so much of an issue in my book, as I don't throw things like that away.  I either recycle them or reuse them.  I used to save all of my burned out incandescents to use their bases for making my LED bulbs (back in the day before you could buy LED bulbs).  The glass was ground up and mixed in my concrete as sand.

For LEDs, if you use them 6 hours a day, every day, they should last 40+ years. (100K+ hours) That's actually a long time for this sort of thing, and in 40 years, we might have figured out a way to recycle LEDs.
T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
Since I did break a CFL bulb and the clean up instructions I found were intense, I don't want to risk breaking one again. If I had done all that was suggested it would have included throwing out our bed and bedding! I have small kids too, this isn't something I particularly want to play around with. I don't keep poison in the house either, in my case it just makes sense to be careful with these things.

Here's what one site had to say about the amount of mercury in CFL bulbs
"about 5 milligrams, or barely enough to cover the tip of a pen — but that is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels, extrapolated from Stanford University research on mercury. Even the latest lamps promoted as “low-mercury” can contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels."

Computers are certainly recyclable, we have a drop off depot here. An even better option is to donate them, we have a place in town called Computers for Kids where they fix them up and give them to kids in need. I bought a new computer for the first time in 8 years or so this year and will be donating my old one. Amazingly enough it's more than usable for those purposes. The ancient old printer I've got too, for parts or even to be fixed up. There are places to mail in nearly anything associated with computers for recycling, ink cartridges, etc.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Computers themselves are not 100% recyclable.  They recycle the parts within them that are recyclable.  If you can recycle a computer, you can recycle an LED, as it is a component within the computer.
T. Joy


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 438
Most of the parts in my old computer and printer (if not all) are reusable first and ultimately recyclable.
Mercury is toxic no matter if you breathe it in, ingest it or put it on your skin. We could argue semantics all day, I am sure. You use the bulbs, I'll look for an alternative.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
There are different grades of mercury according to how easy it can be absorbed into a biosystem or life form. 

CFL mercury is less biologically available than coal plant exhaust or other forms of mercury that you come in contact with EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Matt Ferrall


Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
    
    4
Uh oh.I just read an article in The Telegraph UK entitled Energy saving lightbulbs "contain cancer causing chemicals" which basically states that the bulbs actually emit poisonous materials when switched on including phenol,naphthelene,and styrene in a sort of electrical smog.(cant link from my cell)


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Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
Screw in metal base connected to plastic base containing a circuit board and a gas filled coated piece of glass. when turned on, emits RF (radio frequencies) and distorted spectrums of light.

Toxins can be found in all parts of the bulb. plus look at manufacturing and processing.

Coatings are said to cause blindness if it gets in your eyes.

Solutions if you use them, buy the ones with covers or retrofit covers to reduce chances of breaking and containment if they do break, or take your chances.

If you have child in womb or one on the floor, would you clean up a broken box of CFL?

Leaning more and more towards biblical and other people's philosophy. Use the sun more and sleep when it is dark. Oil, gas, wax seem good alternatives too, if you do not live in a tinder box. But then why would you need fire fighters and fire insurance.

My experience with them. Use to replace incandescent bulbs on porches several times a year. CFLs have been in there 5+ years. I'm sure the plastic will degrade at some point. Family and friends who have had bad luck with longevity were buying cheap junk from a ruthless discount chain. Consider buying a bit higher up.

--Paul - edit as you see fit--
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul and Andrew discuss CFL fluorescent lightbulbs in this podcast: podcast

They talk a lot about CFL toxicity.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So I got my 40th email explaining to me how there is no ban on lightbulbs, but rather there is a new requirement on efficiency.

Here is my response:

I've heard this about 80 times.

Incandescent bulbs are being banned. Some bulbs will be allowed to hang around a little longer. Some aren't banned yet. The way they are banning them is by requiring an efficiency in lumens per watt. So if we create 8 tons of manufacturing pollution to save 8 pounds of electrical pollution, and then throw in 4 grams of pollution that is more toxic than the 8 pounds, then it is all "okay."

These are just words being slapped together so the bad guys can make more money.

The focus should be on how to improve and clean everything - not on how to make more money for the bad guys. Out of the stuff about efficient light bulbs, how much thought was put into total production, total pollution and light quality?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I spend $12 per year on electricity for light. I want the focus on my light bulbs to be:

1) what gives me the most luxuriant light.

2) what is the healthiest for me.

3) what is healthiest for the planet and, therefore, me.

Which bulb uses less energy is a valid question to ask, but the current presentation for the CFL leaves out far too much information.


paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
still getting "there is no ban"

215) standard 100 watt incandescent lights are being banned because a sick and twisted metric was made up and labeled "efficiency".

216) recently there was a slight of hand being labeled as the ban being repealed. No, the group that would enforce the bad has been temporarily de-funded. So there is still just a ban, but as of jan 1, nobody to go and do anything about it. Just watch. I think you will find that in a few months, that group will quietly get re-funded. Further, do you think retail outlets are gonna sell something illegal?

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I want people that call themselves environmentalists to be against the poisons, the sickness, lies and wickedness behind CFLs.
peter dublin


Joined: Feb 22, 2011
Posts: 38


RE Paul's emails " It is about Efficiency, Not a Ban"

Wrong - on both counts


To begin with, it is about a Ban....

1. Any standard that does not allow a product or product versions
obviously bans them

2. It is effectively an incandescent ban too,
since all known general service incandescents are banned on 45 lumen
per Watt EISA end-regulation kicking after 2014
(touted halogens typically reach just 25)
http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.com/2011/07/yes-it-is-ban.html

"The Secretary of Energy shall report to Congress on the time frame
for commercialization of lighting to replace incandescent and halogen
incandescent lamp technology".
"If the final rule [not later than January 1, 2017] does not produce
savings that are greater than or equal to the savings from a minimum
efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt, effective beginning January
1, 2020, the Secretary shall prohibit the sale of any general service
lamp that does not meet a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per
watt"

3. Even if less energy using incandescents are “allowed to be made”,
the profit-seeking manufacturers who lobbied for the ban would be
unlikely to pursdue further improvements
of for them unprofitable technology.
In Europe, promised Philips incandescent Ecosaver improvements were
quietly shelved, once the ban was achieved.
http://ceolas.net/#li1ax

4. On pure semantics,
you may “allow” me to smoke a cigarette,
only if I climb Mount Everest.
Most people (certainly those who know my climbing ability) would
consider that a ban.

More deception ploys by regulation proponents:
http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.com/2011/11/deception-behind-ban.html


peter dublin


Joined: Feb 22, 2011
Posts: 38
Secondly, re "Efficiency"

Efficiency keeps being confused with Energy Efficiency

But energy inefficient cars can give very good performance efficiency,
similarly incandescent light bulbs are more efficient in terms of ease of construction to produce bright light:
That is why the early ban on 100 W bulbs is particularly ironic,
since both CFLs and LEDs are mechanically inefficient in the production of bright lighting,
particularly to produce bright omnidirectional and broad spectrum lighting.

Yes, incandescents release around 95% of their energy as heat:
But not only is the heat useful in temperate climates,
( http://ceolas.net/#li6x )
politicians also "forget" to add that CFLs waste 80% of their energy as heat, or LEDs 70%.
- and in their case, the CFL/LED heat release is internalized, to give a greater fire risk, particularly with CFLs
(http://ceolas.net/#li18eax )
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul and Jocelyn talk about some friends of theirs that recently had an energy audit on their house. They talk about CFL lighting, and the importance of making lifestyle changes in sustainability. podcast
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15229
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Excellent video on CFL toxicity during the manufacture, CFL toxicity during the use and CFL toxicity after disposal.



 
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