Group Tries to Dispel CFL Mercury Fears

"There's so much misinformation about mercury in compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting, American consumers are being discouraged from using them. The overall effect is counterproductive for the nation as a whole," said National Lighting Bureau Communications Director John P. Bachner.

Established in 1976, the bureau is an independent lighting information source sponsored by industry, professional societies, trade associations, utilities, and agencies of the federal government.

According to Bachner, "Consumers' biggest concern is the impact of the mercury vapor that can be released into household air when a CFL is broken. However, even in a small room, the impact on air quality is well below danger levels established by [the Occupational Health and Safety Administration]. In fact, the amount of mercury in a typical CFL is not enough to coat the head of a pin," Bachner said, adding that most of the mercury in CFLs adheres to the glass and does not disperse into the air.

"Reasonable caution is all that's needed to deal with the situation. There's no reason to fear serious, long-term health effects or to call for an emergency- response unit, as some people have done."

Although the amount of mercury in the typical CFL can be characterized as tiny, "we still need to be concerned about the proper disposal and recycling of CFLs," Bachner said. America's lighting- product manufacturers are addressing the issue by working on an energy-efficient replacement for mercury and some are strictly limiting the mercury content of their CFL products.

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