Yesterday, MNN republished a Lighter Footstep article recommending 5 ways to properly dispose of compact fluorescent lightbulbs
(CFLs), the energy-efficient incandescent alternative with one, literally slight hitch: they’re filled with trace amounts of toxic mercury, making careful handling of these otherwise beneficial bulbs a top priority.
Apparently, the New York Times Green Inc. blog also had CFLs on the brain yesterday and published a post on ArmorLite bulbs, a line of "Safety eco CFLs" from ClearLite with protective “SX4000 EcoCoating” that eliminates the risk of mercury exposure if the bulb is broken.
Perhaps more relevant than Green Inc.'s actually assessment of ArmorLite bulbs (yes, they really do appear to work) is a discussion of the broken CFL hysteria that prompted the creation of the ArmorLite. This is always an interesting topic — the possibility of breaking a CFL bulb and releasing mercury truly does freak people out and even prevents some from buying "non-armored" CFLs. But should it? Is the need for products like the ArmorLite even really warranted?
According to some, perhaps no, not really. Again, the amount of mercury in a single CFL bulb is tiny — about five milligrams or the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen — and the Natural Resources Defense Council
points out that there is "between 60 to 200 times that amount of mercury in a single silver dental filling in people’s mouths, depending on the size of the amalgam.”
Despite the supposedly non-threatening amount of mercury in CLF bulbs, many consumers, particularly accident-prone households with children and expectant mothers, still live in fear of the sound of a CLF bulb shattering. This makes products like the ArmorLite and Waste Management’s CFL Recycling Kit
with a special “Mercury Vaporlok” foil bag popular buys.
Where do you stand on the fear-of-mercury-exposure-via-CFL debate? Does having CFLs in your home make you nervous or do not even think about it? Is this all much ado about (possibly) nothing or better safe than sorry?