I was curious how much mercury comes out of compact fluorescent lights since the EPA was so concerned about electrical power plants and my power company was so insistent that I take some free compact fluorescent lights. It sure sounded strange to have my power company begging me to take the lights. The logic being used by the EPA to justify shutting down power plants is particularly perplexing. They seem to believe that I am at a greater exposure risk to mercury coming out of an electrical power plant thirty miles away from me than a broken compact fluorescent light in my living room. It actually gets worse. It is reasonable to assume that most of the non-functioning compact fluorescent lights are ending up in nearby garbage dumps and eventually being carried into our water supply. My inner engineer says this “science” does not pass the laugh test. I did find the AEI-Brookings article referenced in the quote below on the internet, http://www.joelschwartz.com/pdfs/AEI_Brookings_Mercury.pdf.
In a pamphlet extolling the virtues of the looming federal ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs, the EPA says it’s a “myth” that the mercury used in compact fluorescent lights is “dangerous in your home.”
“There’s no evidence,” the brochure says, that “brief exposure to the mercury in a broken bulb presents a health risk to you or your family.” Just air out the room, sweep up the debris into a jar and you’re fine.
Truth is there’s no meaningful health risk from either the bulbs or the power plants. As a 2004 paper published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution noted, “mercury exposure at current levels is unlikely to be causing harm.”