Mercury in CFLs: It All Adds Up

We at LED Waves have blogged before about the dangers of mercury exposure from fluorescent bulbs, as well as passed along Energy Star’s procedures for safely disposing of a broken CFL. Folks reluctant to switch to mercury-free LED lights have countered that the amount of the toxic heavy metal inside CFLs is negligible, some even going so far as to say that the Energy Star disposal guidelines are alarmist and unnecessary.

This is obviously a sticky issue, especially as CFLs seem to be standard “gateway” lamp of choice for eco-conscious consumers before switching to LED lighting systems. For what it’s worth, we agree that mild exposure to a single broken CFL will probably not harm you that much – though we’d still recommend following the Energy Star guidelines (especially if you’re pregnant or nursing). So what is the problem? Well, in spite of the recycling efforts of some consumers, mercury exposure is still happening during the production and disposal of CFLs – and other such industrial products – and the toxic metal appears to be accumulating in the environment at a substantial rate.

Consumer Reports recently conducted testing on canned tuna products. In a report released in their January 2011 issue, they found that the average mercury content of a white tuna sample was 0.427 parts per million. This is up from the 0.353 ppm found in the Food and Drug Administration’s sample testing from 2002-2004. Consumer Reports also noted that, while “white” tuna is generally believed to contain more mercury than “light” tuna, some light tuna contained enough that a woman of childbearing age who eats less than a can a week would still exceed federal recommendations for mercury consumption, as the metal can affect fetal development.

WebMD says tuna can cause mercury poisoning in kitties, as they find the stuff addicting.

So not only would upgrading to LED lights help save the planet through lower energy use and carbon emissions, but cutting out CFLs – and educating ourselves about the other mercury-tainted goods in our lives – will also help save the planet through more satisfying lunches. Please don’t deprive me of my spicy tuna rolls.