Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just How Safe Are Compact Fluorescents ?

Are These Bulbs
As Safe As We've
Been Told?

I have never really given much thought to the safety issue regards Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) and always suspected the money I would be saving was over stated. I have noticed the cost of these bulbs seems to be creeping up over the years and given they will soon have a government sanctioned monopoly I figure my future savings will be eroded through increased prices for the CFLs.

But, hey, if it means I will be doing my part to save the planet, I'm all for it although I am always suspicious about the real agendas behind anything which can be as impacting as a government enforced use of the CFL.


What prompted me to look into the safety issues around CFLs was an article in today's Vancouver Sun quoting a West Vancouver doctor as saying CFLs may have 'devastating' health implications for people with autoimmune diseases.

The doctor goes on to say that Health Canada has issued a warning on it's website saying persons with lupus or other autoimmune diseases and certain skin conditions might be sensitive to UV radiation from CFLs. It says persons who believe they are suffering symptoms associate with UV should consult their doctor.

The doctor points out that while the warning is on the website, it is not on the packaging of CFLs.

In the course of researching CFLs further I visited the Health Canada website to see for myself what they had to say about some safety issues. One precaution which I found slightly alarming, is that while the amount of mercury contained in each CFL is said to be very small, and contain little risk even if the bulb should be broken; the advice for clean up is not entirely reassuring. They advise that if you should break a CFL you should evacuate the room, and ventilate the area for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken glass. CFLs are not to be disposed of with regular household waste but are to be taken to a hazardous waste site.

It puts me in mind of how 'safe' dental x-rays are, providing I am wearing a ton of lead and the technician leaves the room during the process.

In BC the process of reducing and/or eliminating the use of incandescent bulbs has already begun and will come into effect nationally in 2012. I am not personally going to lead a charge to allow the continued use of incandescent bulbs but it would seem there are enough questions about CFLs to indicate this might be one of those wise choices we have made, we might one day regret.


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