Sunday, May 29, 2011

Can SC save the incandescent light bulb?

South Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to save the incandescent light bulb. The odds of their plan working may be slim, but for lovers of good old-fashioned light bulbs (especially for those in nearby Waxhaw), this is good news. From a Heritage article:
Fed up with the federal government’s ban of the traditional incandescent light bulb, state representatives in South Carolina are pushing for the state to produce and use incandescents solely for its state.

The Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act, which unanimously passed South Carolina’s Senate panel, would allow South Carolina manufacturers to continue to sell incandescent bulbs so long as they have “Made in South Carolina” on them and are sold only within the state.
Besides the light being not so inviting, the longevity of the new-fangled CFLs hasn't quite lived up to claims. I've had a couple of them fail fairly quickly.

Which leads us to the second problem - disposal of old bulbs. The mercury inside these bulbs makes for a tedious disposal process -- that is, if you choose to follow the EPA recommendations. For a detailed list of steps in properly disposing of CFL bulbs, go here.

But to give you just a taste, here's the pre-cleanup steps:
Before Cleanup

* Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.
* Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.
* Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
* Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:
- Stiff paper or cardboard
- Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)
- Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
- Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)
And God forbid the bulb broke in a carpeted room. If so, here's what the EPA recommends:
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

* The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.
* After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.
I'm not sure if these speaks more to the dangers CFLs pose or sheer ludicrousness of government agency proposals. Seriously, who would follow all these steps? And if they're essential for safety reasons, why would anyone buy these CFL bulbs? Other than the fact that the federal government will soon be forcing us to.

By the way, in other news, German scientists did some research recently and here's what they found:
Their report advises that the bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head, as they emit poisonous materials when switched on.

Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin's Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”

The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year.

But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene.

Andreas Kirchner, of the Federation of German Engineers, said: “Electrical smog develops around these lamps.

“I, therefore, use them only very economically. They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head.”
Who wouldn't want to fill their houses with these glorious light bulbs? Mental note: remove bulbs from kids' room and bedside reading lamps.

I'm rooting for South Carolina in this case.

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