Care needed when using new globes

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are generally welcomed as a more efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs ....

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are generally welcomed as a more efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs - but environmentalists and health experts are now concerned about their long-term impact.


While the bulbs are extremely energy efficient, they contain mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause kidney and brain damage. The amount in each CFL is only about 5mg - or just enough to cover the tip of a pen - but that is enough to contaminate about 30 000L of water beyond the safety limits set by international research.


And, says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, what really concerns environmentalists is the possible cumulative effect on water resources when increasing numbers of CFLs are dumped and the tubes are shattered, releasing the mercury to the environment.


"On the other hand, accidental breakage of globes in homes and workplaces is what concerns health experts, who warn that mercury contamination of a home or office should be cleared by experts to prevent mercury becoming a health hazard to residents or workers."


Meanwhile, even intact CFLs could cause misery for people who have light-sensitive skin disorders, medical experts have warned. People with skin conditions such as lupus, eczema and psoriasis have reported that CFLs cause painful rashes, swelling and a burning sensation on their skin.


The main concern in such instances is the intensity of the ultraviolet light from the low-energy bulbs, " says Everitt, " and an alternative for people with susceptible skin conditions is halogen bulbs. These resemble normal bulbs and are slightly more expensive, however they use only about 70% of the energy used by incandescent bulbs to emit the same amount of light.


"Meanwhile, consumers who do switch to using CFLs are advised to take due care not to break the bulbs and to find sites that can safely dispose of them."

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