Dispelling a few myths about Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

November 17th 2010
Dispelling a few myths about  Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

There's a wealth of information out there about compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and while much of it is helpful, there's a fair amount of misleading or incorrect information.

So before you're tempted to start heating your home with incandescent bulbs, or to avoid buying CFLs due to health concerns, please take a few minutes to read the following information from BC Hydro Power Smart.

Myth: CFLs increase greenhouse gas emissions

Fact: Incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient at producing light, that 95% of the electricity they use goes towards producing heat.

When you replace them with CFLs, you may lose a tiny amount of heat, but you can more than offset the miniscule increase in your heating load by simply draftproofing and caulking your doors and windows. That alone can help you reduce your heating load by 10%. The GHG emissions of the increased heating requirements would only amount to 0.07% of B.C.'s total yearly emissions.

The bottom line is that CFLs are more efficient than incandescent light bulbs and they are better for the environment because they last at least eight times longer and therefore, create less waste.

It's not efficient to rely on the heat created by incandescent bulbs to heat your home. BC Hydro recommends using the most efficient lighting products your home lighting and the most efficient heating practices to heat your home.

Myth: The mercury in CFLs can be harmful to your health.

Fact: CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury - only two to four milligrams per bulb. In comparison, there are 500 milligrams of mercury in one amalgam dental filling and 3,000 milligrams in a typical household thermostat.
CFLs are not hazardous to operate: the mercury in the bulbs is not released when the bulbs are being operated.
Despite the small amounts of mercury in CFLs, they should still be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

If you've been wondering what to do with your burnt-out fluorescent lights, there's a B.C. program to keep them out of the landfill and ensure safe recycling. It's called LightRecycle. Starting July 1, 2010, residents across B.C. can return used fluorescent lights to a LightRecycle drop-off location for safe recycling. LightRecyle accepts all residential use compact fluorescent lights and fluorescent tubes. To find a drop-off location nearest you, visit CLICK HERE

Myth: CFLs emit UV rays harmful to your health.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that links CFLs to health issues. However, BC Hydro continues to monitor studies by Health Canada on this topic.

All lighting sources emit UV rays, and CFL's do emit a very small amount of UV light. However, it's not a hazardous or harmful amount.

This information is courtesy of BC Hydro

Handling, Storing and Transporting Lights Safely

- Handle your old lights carefully. Never break or puncture. Wrap the lights in paper or place them in original packaging. Take them to a LightRecycle drop-off. Take off the paper before dropping them off.
- Because fluorescent lights contain a small amount of mercury it's important to take care when using them. Follow these few simple steps to keep mercury out the environment and to safely handle, store and transport compact fluorescent lights and fluorescent tubes.
- Remove and install the CFL only by handling the base of the bulb to prevent any unnecessary pressure on the glass that could cause it to break.
- Store and transport CFL's and fluorescent lamps in containers such as original packaging that help prevent lights from breaking.
- If you do break a fluorescent light bulb, Health Canada recommends the following cleanup procedures:
- Ventilate the room for at least 15 minutes before you start clean up, removing people and pets from the room.
- Wear disposable gloves, if possible to avoid direct contact with mercury and to prevent cuts.
- Sweep or wipe up the glass fragments and powder using two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard.
- Use sticky tape to pick up more particles and then wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up tiny pieces of glass or fine particles.
- If the bulb breaks on a rug or carpet, use sticky tape (such as duct tape) to pick up small pieces and powder. Vacuuming should be avoided as it spreads mercury through the air. If vacuuming is necessary, remove the vacuum bag or empty and wipe the canister with paper towel after the area is cleaned.
- Place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass container with a tight fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour.
- Bring the sealed glass container to a collection site.

For information on safe handling and clean up, visit Health Canada's Website

About Mercury

- Fluorescent lights contain a small amount of mercury necessary to make them energy efficient. They contain an amount about the size of the tip of a ball point pen and about five times less than the amount found in a watch battery. Since no amount of mercury is good for the environment, these lights need to be safely recycled after use and kept out of local landfills.
- Mercury has been used in the fluorescent tubes used in industry, business, schools and other institutions since the 1940's. Since 1990, manufacturers have reduced the amount of mercury in fluorescent lights and tubes by over 80 percent. In Canada in 2006, the average amount of mercury in a CFL bulb was 3.7 mg and 7.6 mg in a tube. To date, no substitute for mercury in fluorescent lights has been found, that's why it's very important that they be recycled and kept out of our local landfills.
- Fluorescent lights use less energy which benefits the environment. By safely recycling these lights, we continue to protect the environment now, and for our future generations.

Benefits of Compact Fluorescent Lights and Tubes

- These energy-efficient fluorescent lights use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, reducing your electricity bill. Lighting can account for up to 10% of the energy used in a home and every bit helps.
- They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and illumination levels suitable for all areas of your home.
- CFL's and fluorescent tubes benefit the environment by reducing solid waste since they last longer than incandescent bulbs and can now be recycled, keeping them out of local landfills.
- These lights help to achieve the BC Energy Plan goal of meeting 66% of new energy needs through energy efficiency and conservation in the province.