Mercury in Energy Saving Lamps

Since September 1, 2012, the last variants of the Edison invention have been banished from the sales shelves with the 40 and 25 Watt light bulbs. The EU incandescent bulb ban entered into force in September 2009 and aims to counteract the high electricity consumption in the EU. In the course of the ban, the compact generic lipitor cost walmart fluorescent lamp, better known as an energy saving lamp, has been particularly praised by the European Union as a replacement for the conventional light bulb. An 11 watt energy saving lamp can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb with today’s technology and thus saves around 80% of electricity. In addition, it has an average life of 10,000 hours, a 10 times longer life. Nevertheless, the energy saving lamp in the public has a very bad reputation.

Energy saving lamps are wrongly condemned

This is due in particular to the fact that this type of light source contains mercury. At least since the ban on mercury-containing fever thermometers, barometers and blood pressure monitors within the EU, the dangers of this substance are also known to the general public. Therefore, it is only more than understandable that many people are afraid of using energy saving lamps in their homes.

In the case of the mercury content of an energy saving lamp, one must pay particular attention to the ratio to other products. According to a study by Stiftung Warentest (03.12.2010), energy saving lamps contain an average of about 2 milligrams of mercury [1], which is well below the statutory limit of 3.5 mg [2]. For comparison:

– One kilogram of tuna contains up to 1 mg of mercury [3]. The mercury enters the body when ingested. Every year, on average, every citizen of Germany eats around 1.75kg of tuna. This corresponds to 1.75mg of mercury every year. On the other hand, only a fraction of the 2 milligrams of mercury is absorbed when a energy saving lamp breaks. The mercury concentration in the tuna is not safe for humans after several studies.

-Also fluorescent tubes, usually found in car parks, shops and office buildings, contain up to 15mg mercury and thus more than seven times as much as normal energy saving lamps. Nevertheless, these are still used normally and have not been noticed in the public.

-Mercury in vaccines is a topic that has been a long-standing issue and has recently been re-launched in mass vaccination against swine flu. In many other vaccines, thimerosal is also included as a preservative. In this case the load is of course the most extreme: the mercury is injected directly into the bloodstream. Thiomersal has been used in vaccines since the 1920s.According to WHO, the concentration of mercury in vaccines is safe [4].

Energy saving lamps prevent the production of mercury

What sounds paradoxical at first glance is quite logical on closer inspection.

Fossil fuels, in particular coal, contain traces of mercury and are burned during the generation of electricity. As a result, the power stations with their exhaust gases also emit mercury (0.0177 mg per kWh) [5].

In order to replace the approximate light quantity of the light bulbs which had previously been sold in Germany within a year, about 26 million energy saving lamps with an average life of 10,000 hours would be needed each year. This would result in some 52 kilos of mercury in the form of lamps. However, this is only one side of the coin. The use of incandescent bulbs can save some 7.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year due to the use of compact fluorescent lamps. This corresponds to approximately 50% of the annual electricity production of the largest coal-fired power station in Germany, producing a total of 181 kg of mercury. The mercury balance of energy saving lamps is therefore quite positive. [6], [7]

In addition, the mercury from energy-saving lamps is recycled with proper disposal and thus makes further use possible. However, disposal into hazardous waste is only carried out in 10% of cases. Surely this would be a good starting point for the media to report more clearly on energy saving lamps and to contribute to the increase of this share.

Mercury poisoning by energy saving lamps not known

The dangers of mercury are not to be impaired here, since in certain quantities, mercury is very dangerous for human health. Before their ban, the amount of mercury in a fever thermometer was partly 1g, reaching critical dimensions.However, there is still no scientific study to date, which confers a risk of illness due to broken energy saving lamps. Despite millions of energy saving lamps in German households, no cases are known to date, in which a broken energy saving lamp is responsible for a mercury poisoning. The illustrated case of mercury poisoning in the film “Bulb Fiction” is also not traceable to a broken energy saving lamp. If there was a case, which was caused by energy-saving lamps without a doubt, this would surely have been found by the producers of this film. [8th]

Energy saving lamps in clinical tests

A Swedish study, however, shows that inhaling leads to a short-term increase in the concentration of mercury in the blood, but this is far below the dose dangerous to humans. [9] According to the Federal Environment Agency, this figure is 5 micrograms per liter in whole blood [10]. In the study, subjects had inhaled mean mercury air concentrations of 400 ?g/m 3 (four times the dose of a broken energy-saving lamp) for 15 minutes while being exposed to a light physical strain on an ergometer. Other studies have previously shown that mercury concentrations of up to 100 ?g/m 3 can occur near a broken energy saving lamp. In the test persons of the Swedish study, a rapid, but only brief increase in the concentration of mercury between 1.2 and 2.6 ?g/l in whole blood was measured within the first hour. So according to Umweltbundesamt no hazardous concentration of mercury.

Alternative solutions

-In order to avoid a short increase in the concentration of mercury in the blood, however, the compact 4-wall flashlight should be well ventilated for 15 minutes, and only then can the fragments be removed.

-Dispose of this in an extra garbage bag and then dispose of it as a special waste. The right disposal of energy saving lamps is essential for recycling. On this subject we will also report in more detail in the next weeks (A few information is already here: Disposal energy saving lamps.

– Manufacturers also respond to the fears of buyers and constantly develop their light sources. For example, newer energy saving lamps are coated with a thin silicone protection. If this lamp breaks, the sheath remains. No mercury can enter the room air. Protection against annoying shards and toxic mercury vapor.

– If you still have any doubts about the use of energy saving lamps, you should nevertheless act environmentally consciously and switch to LED lamps. LED lamps  are completely mercury-free, have an average life of 25,000 hours and are even more energy-efficient than compact fluorescent lamps.

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