Tuesday, May 08, 2007

O wise and all-knowing Goreacle, please answer my earnest query:

Which is better: an incandescent bulb we can through in the trash can, or a CFL Mercury florescent lightbulb, that, if broken, could cost over $2000 to clean up, and could be deadly to the person breaking the bulb? Do you honestly believe that mercury contamination of our environment is better than a few incandescent bulbs and huge profits for multinational corporations?

There are conflicting stories out there on the web. The story above says the Maine Department of Environmental Protection found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter and had the homeowner contact a hazmat team to clean up the mess for for $2000. Yet a recent article on snopes.com says there's nothing to that, pointing the reader to an EnergyStar PDF document. The document says not to vacuum the glass, but to sweep it. Could that be to prevent getting Mercury vapors, which is at such low concentrations that your biggest health risk is cutting your finger, from getting in the air? Then it says you should open your windows to ventilate the room from this minuscule amount of mercury. Then they tell us not to throw this small amount of mercury in the trash, but take it to a hazardous materials center. Sounds safe so far.

But what happens if the house goes up for sale and the buyer has an inspection done and they find elevated levels of mercury in the house? Can you refer the buyer to the Goreacle who will tell them that the Earth has been saved, or the EPA who can tell them to open the window?

I still say, use florescents. But I don't believe they are the silver bullet that will save the planet. They will destroy it in another way that we will have to replace in a few years.

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