Ameren Illinois Utilities has been pushing CFLs, compact fluorescent lights, in their “Facts on Energy” bill inserts lately (and apparently in commercials). The utility is offering “bargain prices” on the bulbs, “which typically use 75 percent less energy, give off less heat and last eight times longer than standard incandescent bulbs,” according to the January 2009 insert. The December issue of the insert tells people they can “save $100 in 2009 simply by replacing 20 standard incandescent light bulbs” with the CFLs, although in that issue, the claim was that they lasted up to 10 times longer.
What the “Facts on Energy” inserts don’t tell customers is that CFLs are dangerous. According to the January/February 2008 issue of Midwestern Family, “It is against the law for any Illinois business to dispose of a CFL in a municipal landfill, but residential homes have, so far, been overlooked.” That’s because of the mercury contained in the CFLs.
“While compact fluorescent light bulbs are great for cutting down energy consumption, their contents are hazardous. John Becker, owner of Farmington Road Hardware, started a collection bin for CFLs at the end of October [Note: That store has since closed.] ‘If you do break a CFL, clear the room immediately. (A CFL) can contaminate 22,000 gallons of water in a heartbeat, it’s not something you should mess with. People should dispose of them properly,’ Becker says.”
The WattWorks Web site has additional warnings, such as this:
“CFLs contain an average of 5 mg (range of 0.9 to 18 mg) of mercury. Breaking a single CFL bulb in a room can result in mercury vapor levels 300 times in excess of what the EPA has established as safe for prolonged exposure. Serious health effects are associated with mercury exposure. Unborn and young children, elderly and those with weakened health are particularly vulnerable. Mercury affects the nervous system. Neuro-pathways of children are still developing and exposure can result in permanent damage.”
The Ameren inserts do not contain any warnings about the mercury hazards of CFLs, which have been known for some time now, in their touting of the bulbs.