Mercury bombs

Now the traditional (and cheap) incandescent light bulb has been forcibly phased out in the name of saving the planet, we seem to be stuck with millions of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL), or mercury bombs as they have been called. These things contain mercury, a Red List substance, so when they break or fail they have to be disposed of in the approved manner.

Not only that, but CFL lighting was always due to be phased out anyway because of the mercury. It’s probably only a matter of time because the Zero Mercury Working Group has this to say about the use of mercury.

 The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of 94 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from 52 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project. ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

A complete global ban is their aim – hence the name. Zero Mercury Working Group. All this is going on under the umbrella of UNEP, the same UN body that pushes climate propaganda and thereby the move to CFL lighting. A binding international agreement on mercury may well be signed within weeks and ZMWG is after a strong agreement :-

The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on Mercury (INC4) will be held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 27 June to 2 July 2012.

There is in principle nothing wrong with phasing out the release of mercury into the environment. There are problems in identifying anthropogenic mercury, because it occurs naturally, but in principle we should not be adding it to the environment if at all possible.

The problem is, we knew all this when CFL lighting was forced on us, so why not wait for something better than CFL, or at least make it optional with a large health warning on each pack? Why fill millions of homes with millions of mercury-containing CFLs, knowing they will have to be phased out and knowing the official view is, the sooner the better?

The only domestic option to CFL, unless we go back to traditional (and did I say cheap) incandescent light bulbs, seems to be LED lighting, which is expensive, still being developed and depends on rare earths from China. This was also foreseeable of course because both the pushing of CFL and the phasing out of the mercury essential for CFL were going on at the same time under the same umbrella organisation – UNEP.

Not that anyone is likely to be surprised.

17 comments for “Mercury bombs

  1. June 19, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Mercury was always the weak point for “energy efficent” light bulbs though singularly ignored by the likes of Geoff Leane (Telegraphs eco-liar) and which was the reason for the death of the small but formerly excellent UK barometer industry (h/t Chris Booker also of the Telegraph).
    Anyone like to hazard a guess as to how many have been deposited as non renewable waste and are now gently oozing in landfill?

    The other problem of LRD lighting is that it is even wankier then CFL light.

    Personally I don’t give a toss since I spent a year building up a supply of proper light bulbs which will see me to the grave :razz:. BTW, the EU did not ban those bulbs as such, just the distribution of them.

    • Jack Savage
      June 19, 2012 at 8:04 am

      Indeed. Anyone who did not like CFL bulbs had plenty of warning to get in a stock.
      I find a mixture of the two depending on the use of the area lit to be a good compromise between energy use and quality of light.
      I remain to be convinced that the quantity of mercury contained in CFL’s actually constitute a measureable health risk…but then I am a daredevil because I grew up in a high-risk environment known as “the Fifties”.

      • June 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

        We stocked as many as we could. The stock is beginning to run thin now. As we can’t get incandescent, halogen is the next best thing.

        • June 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

          Agreed. The ban hit the People’s Eco-Friendly Republic of Invaded Aboriginal Ancient Lands earlier than it did with you guys, so my stock of incandescents has just about run out. Halogens are my current preferences being not too dear and still much cheaper than LEDs, as effective as incandescents (actually they look like they’re still a type of incandescent) and a bit less power hungry for the same light. Perhaps a jack of all trades that masters none but a better solution than being a whiz at low power in return for being expensive, containing mercury and giving off shit light.

  2. Mark
    June 19, 2012 at 8:09 am

    What annoys me most is the way these mercury bulbs are promoted as delivering “equivalent light” to higher-power incandescent ones.

    A mercury bulb claimed to give equivalent light to an incandescent one of, say, 60W actually emits only about 80% of the lumens of a 60W incandescent that I can buy for 1/10th the price.

    I hate being lied to.

    I like LEDs though, I found some really cheap ones on special offer, and they now light my living room. 6W in total I think and plenty of light, and supposed to be good for 30,000 hours. They’ll see me out.

    • June 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      I agree – they don’t seem to deliver an equivalent light output to the old incandescent bulbs.

  3. Greg Tingey
    June 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

    As a real ecologist I have point-blank refused to have more than one of these in the house – and I’ve got rid of that now.
    They are DIM, they “light” slowly, and they are not nearly as efficient as LED’s.
    [ See also, Mark’s comment, above. ]
    The lawyers jumped the gun, actually, and, of course, didn’t understand the technology.
    There IS a “green” alternative to filament-bulbs, if you want one – as I said – it is the LED-cluster.
    Uses tiny amounts of power, too!

    Note: If you really want to you can still get filament-buls – you just have to pay a little more and buy the “ruggedised” types, as supplied to workshops, for use in hand-hjeld wnader-leads for inspection purposes.
    So there.

    • Tatty
      June 19, 2012 at 8:53 am

      As a real ecologist …”

      What does that even mean ? Do you light your home only with the sun’s rays and go to bed at 4pm in the winter ? 😉

    • June 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      They do light slowly, sometimes very slowly.

  4. Mudplugger
    June 19, 2012 at 8:52 am

    If the manufacturers really wanted to continue selling incandescent bulbs, they only need to stop labelling them as ‘light-bulbs’.
    If they were sold as ‘heating devices’ (the fact that they produce some light is then merely a by-product), they could carry on flogging them.
    But guess who makes far more profit from the allegedly green lighting ?

    • Greg Tingey
      June 20, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Read what I posted?
      YOU CAN STILL GET THEM.
      “Ruggedised” for workshop/inspection lamp use ….

      For domestic use, just go for LED’s

  5. June 19, 2012 at 9:29 am

    At the risk of being a philistine – are these “mercury” bulbs the ones with the curling round filament and they’re dark at the start and get brighter?

    If so, two I have are pretty good. Both have been with me four years now and the one in the bathroom would be a pain to change, given it’s high up and I have no ladder. The one in the bedside lamp was put in that time ago and still kicks on. Am I getting mercury poisoning from this?

    In the evening, this lamp is my only light and my electricity bill all up, in a very non-appliance household, is about £4.70 a week.

    • June 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Yes, they do curly CFLs. They can be very reliable, but in my experience not as reliable as claimed. You won’t get mercury poisoning from one unless you eat it, but that isn’t an approved disposal route 😉

  6. Richard Mitton
    June 19, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I hope one doesn’t burst on an aircraft. Doesn’t Mercury dissolve aluminium?

  7. microdave
    June 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    “Buy the “ruggedised” types, as supplied to workshops”

    Unfortunately they are even LESS efficient than standard filament lamps, as they run a little bit cooler to reduce the stress on the fragile filament.

    “If they were sold as ‘heating devices’ they could carry on flogging them.”

    This was tried by some enterprising Germans – it didn’t work however, and officials ordered several thousands of them to be destroyed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/8197512/German-man-fails-in-lightbulb-campaign.html

    The biggest joke about all of this is how people completely forget that ALL fluorescent lamps contain mercury (and always have since they were invented donkeys years ago). You rarely heard scare stories regarding their breakage or disposal until recently. Admittedly older types had particularly nasty compounds in the phosphor coating, but these were phased out many years ago.

    Long straight tubes may not look pretty, but they are far more effective than tightly curled ones, and don’t take minutes to warm up (except in really cold environments). When they do reach the end of their life you only replace the tube. The starter is cheap and easily replaced, and wound ballasts usually last a very long time.

    How many users bother to read the warning on CFL’s packaging warning NOT to install them in enclosed fittings? The electronic ballasts don’t take kindly to high temperatures, and suffer premature failure in this situation. They can also (and do) catch fire!

  8. Dave_G
    June 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Conveniently, the cheap CFLs on offer in our local Tesco last year (at 11p each) now cost the better part of £3 EACH.

  9. Moppy
    June 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    If you have an Aldi near you it could be worth a visit, our local one has real lightbulbs but only in bayonet fitting. They had loads of 60w and think some 100w.

    Go get em!

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