Many of us, in an effort to save energy and money, replaced our old standard light bulbs with environmentally-friendly, new generation, energy saving light bulbs. However, the dangers of energy saving light bulbs are alarming! They’re so toxic that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created an emergency protocol you need to follow in the event of a bulb breakage, due to the poison gas that is released.
If broken indoors, these light bulbs release 20 times the maximum acceptable mercury concentration into the air, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute for German’s Federal Environment Agency.
Energy-Saving Light Bulbs Can Cause
- Cluster headaches
- Inability to concentrate
3 Dangers of Using Energy Saving Light Bulbs
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1. Energy saving light bulbs contain mercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women.
It is especially toxic to the brain, the nervous system, the liver and the kidneys. It can also damage the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. It can lead to tremors, anxiety, insomnia, memory loss, headaches, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
2. Energy Saving Light Bulbs are Cancer-Linked
A new study performed by Peter Braun at Berlin Germany’s Alab Laboratory found that these light bulbs contain three known carcinogens:
- Phenol – A mildly acidic toxic white crystalline solid, obtained from coal tar and used in chemical manufacture. (However, it is not classifiable with regard to its carcinogenicity to humans.)
- Naphthalene – A volatile white crystalline compound, produced by the distillation of coal tar, used in mothballs and as a raw material for chemical manufacture.
- Styrene – An unsaturated liquid hydrocarbon, obtained as a petroleum byproduct.
3. Energy Saving Bulbs Emit a Lot of UV Rays
Energy saving lamps emit UV-B and traces of UV-C radiation. It is generally recognized that UV-radiation is harmful to the skin (which is linked to cancer) and the eyes.
The radiation from these bulbs directly attacks the immune system, and furthermore, damages the skin tissues enough to prevent the proper formation of vitamin D-3.
So despite the energy and cost savings, these light bulbs pose serious health risks and you may want to change back to regular incandescent bulbs. But be careful while doing so.
If one happens to break, the dangers are so severe that the Environmental Protection Agency has laid out a very detailed protocol to deal with the mercury and cancer-linked chemicals, which you can read below:
The Official E.P.A. Broken Bulb Clean-Up Procedure
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the following emergency procedure should be followed in the event of a bulb breakage, due to the poison gas that is released.
- Have people and pets leave the room.
- Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
- Shut off the central forced-air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
- Stiff paper or cardboard
- Sticky tape
- Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
- A glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
- DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
- Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
- Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
- Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
- Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
- Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
- Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
- If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
With all that being said, it’s best to replace this generation of light bulbs with standard ones before a dangerous accident happens.
Lind, M., Cynkier, I., Barregård, L., Sällsten, G., & Langworth, S. (1997, July 1). Exposure to Mercury Vapor and Impact on Health in the Dental Profession in Sweden. Retrieved from http://jdr.sagepub.com/content/76/7/1397.short
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (n.d.). Phenol: Regulations and Advisories. Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp115-c8.pdf
Berlin, M., MD, Fazackerley, J., Nordberg, G., & Kand, M. (2013, April 29). The Uptake of Mercury in the Brains of Mammals Exposed to Mercury Vapor and to Mercuric Salts. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00039896.1969.10665480
Ratcliffe, H. E., Swanson, G. M., & Fischer, L. J. (1996, January 10). Human Exposure to Mercury: A Critical Assessment of the Evidence of Adverse Health Effects. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00984108.1996.11667600
Clarkson, T. W. (1998, December 07). Human toxicology of Mercury. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1520-670X(1998)11:2/3%3C303::AID-JTRA18%3E3.0.CO;2-V/abstract
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2016, September 29). Cleaning Up a Broken CFL. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl#important
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