These light-bulbs (Compact Fluorescent bulbs or CFLs) are strongly promoted as being a huge contributor to the ‘green’ economy, even to the extent that it is now no longer possible to buy the standard light-bulb we have been used to all our lives. However, when we examine the reality, it can be seen to be somewhat different to the rosy picture painted of the eco-friendliness of this abomination.
Firstly, eco–friendly or healthy they most certainly are not. CFLs are filled with mercury and furthermore they also emit UV radiation when activated. An average CFL bulb contains 5mg of mercury and considering the fact that ingesting even the tiniest amount of mercury can be very harmful and as the US OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health administration) points out; the permissible level of mercury vapour is 0.1 milligram per cubic metre. A CFL contains 50 times that amount and even more significantly, the threshold limit value for skin contamination is just 0.025mg per cubic metre, 200 times the amount within a CFL!
Should one of these ‘eco-friendly’ bulbs break open, then anyone within the same room will be exposed to a massive risk of mercury poisoning. A study published on the 6th July 2011 showed that once broken, a CFL continuously releases mercury vapour into the air for months and depending on how well-ventilated the room is, can well exceed human safety levels – often by tens of thousands of percentage points.
The effects of exposure to mercury vapour can be damage to central and peripheral nervous systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes in humans and damage to immune function and perhaps most alarmingly, the release of methyl-mercury, a chemical compound formed in the environment from released mercury that can cause brain damage. This is not exaggeration at all, but simply-stated fact.
CFLs operate in the 24-100 kHz frequency range, classified as Intermediate Frequency 5 (IF5) by the World Health Organisation. This in itself gives rise to fears of biological damage as it has been demonstrated that disturbances in this range cause sufficient interference to raise severe health concerns. In California, a recent study of cancer clusters associated the increased risk of cancer with teachers who taught in classrooms where the GS, a means of measuring dirty electricity, was above 200 GS units. Ironically, a light-bulb which is designed to be eco-friendly and less hazardous is classified as emitting ‘dirty electricity’, yet the traditional incandescent light-bulb does not.
Also despite the wild claims of CFL’s promoters, questions also arise over its life-expectancy. There have been claims suggesting that these bulbs can last up to 10,000 hours whereas 5,000–8,000 hours would probably be closer to the truth. However, it is impossible to accurately determine a specific lifespan due to the large variety of different conditions existing in each individual home. What is known for certain though is that by switching the CFL on and off continually, it unsurprisingly, dramatically reduces the lifespan. Even that Elite propaganda-dispenser Wikipedia states, ‘In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be reduced to close to that of incandescent light bulbs’.
CFLs also take around 2-3 minutes to fully ‘warm up’ and therefore should light be required purely for a short period, for example quickly entering a room to retrieve an item, far more energy will be used than with conventional bulbs. The U.S. Energy Star program suggests that ‘fluorescent lamps be left on when leaving a room for less than 15 minutes to mitigate this problem’. Is life not already complicated enough without all this to consider?!
A CFL 26 watt bulb is the equivalent of a 100 watt incandescent bulb and costs around $5 (at time of writing) with a life span of an average of 7000 hours without factoring in the 5 minute on/off cycle. Comparatively speaking, an incandescent bulb costs just around $1 with an average life-span of 800 hours, so according to these figures we would spend around $4.00 more per life-cycle using incandescent eco-friendly, clean bulbs. In effect this then means that we would save a whole $4 over a period of one year.
But, what cannot be excluded from any considerations of the ‘value’ of this abomination are the severe, potential health risks and the enormous power surges required by CFLs when switching them and also the cost of the quick on/off cycle. These figures are typically always absent from any study on costs and efficiency, creating as usual, a totally false conclusion for widespread consumption by the masses.
In addition, the current price of CFLs reflects their almost exclusive manufacture in China, where labour costs are dramatically less and that will surely change, as the Chinese economy grows and achieves world domination as is widely expected by most commentators. Governments cannot be trusted to control the cost either, as they certainly wish to maximise the import duty on any item. The more expensive the bulb, the more duty they collect is simple mathematics. A good example of this tactic is how we were strongly encouraged to buy diesel cars as the fuel was much cheaper, but now that sufficient numbers of drivers have been ‘converted’ to the benefits of diesel, we find that the tax on diesel has been miraculously increased and thus we now pay considerably more for diesel than petrol!
The game is rigged and the table has most definitely ‘tilted’.