An EPA study shows tht while there is lead in compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), using them instead or normal light bulbs actually decreases the amount of lead in the environment. Why? Mercury is found in many rocks including coal. When coal is burned at a utility power plant to produce electricity, mercury is released into the environment.
Coal-burning power plants are the largest man-made source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for about half of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory)
Using energy-efficient CFLs reduces demand for power, which in turn reduces the amount of mercury released into the environment by coal-burning power plants.
CFLs contain very small amounts of mercury
Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source.
On average, CFLs contain abut four milligrams of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in over 100 CFLs.
Manufacturers of fluorescent lighting products are working to reduce the amount of mercury content in CFLs.
No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (i.e., not broken) or in use, but CFLs release mercury vapor when broken.
- Why use CFLs if they contain mercury?
Small amounts of mercury can be released into the environment when CFLs break, or if they are improperly disposed of at the end of their useful lives. The total amount of mercury that could be released into the environment through breakage and improper disposal, however, is small compared to the amount of mercury that doesn’t get released into the environment because Americans are choosing energy-efficient CFLs, reducing demand for electricity. Learn more from the Energy Star program about the benefits of using CFLs.