CFL bulbs can be dangerous: Here’s what you need to know

Eastar lighting

From ultraviolet radiation to mercury vapour poisoning. Here’s what you need to know

Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs contain mercury, typically 3 to 5 milligrams. Researchers find that only a small fraction of mercury vapour escapes when the bulbs break. If a broken CFL is left unattended for 24 hours, only 0.04 to 0.7 milligrams of mercury is released. This is according to Jackson State University researchers Yadong Li and Li Jin.

It would take weeks for the mercury vapour to rise to amounts capable of being hazardous to a child. CFLs, however, require careful handling because the hazard can be blown out of proportion. For example, in stores, warehouses or even dumpsites.

Exposure to mercury, even small amounts, may cause serious health problems. It is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early life according to the WHO. The WHO also considers mercury as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.

CFL bulbs leak out ultraviolet radiation

Most CFL bulbs have defects that allow UV radiation to leak at levels that could damage skin cells if a person is directly exposed at close range as stated in a 2012 study by Stony Brook University researchers.

Most researches recommend that you keep your CFL bulbs at least two feet away at all times. Also, avoid staring directly at a CFL bulb. If you use a lamp close up consider swapping out the CFL bulb for a LED bulb (another kind of energy-efficient light).

You could also enclose CFLs in lamps fully enclosed in glass rather than open at the bottom.

CFL bulbs brought an era of energy efficiency. But as with any other product, people need to be aware of safety issues and take due precautions.

Credit: National Geographic, SaveOnEnergy

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