What You Can Really Save By Recycling a CFL.
An average CFL bulb contains 1 to 5 mg Mercury. That’s just a small amount, only sufficient to cover a ballpoint tip that once you break one CFL bulb and the Mercury leaks out, it would not make a hazardous impact to both human health nor the environment. However, since there are millions of CFL bulbs used, the mercury of those worn out CLF bulbs will make a massive pollutant and emission, if not properly discard - ideally recycled. You may be surprised how far you actually help caring the human health and the environment by simply recycling CFL.
290 million compact fluorescent lamps were sold in the United States in 2007; if they were all sent to landfill sites, then we would be contributing around 0.13 tons, or 0.1% of all U.S. human-made emissions of mercury (around 104 tons) that year.
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
How Thrown Away CFL Bulbs Can Harm Human and Wildlife.
When CFL is used, most mercury vapor within the bulbs becomes bound to its inside part. Assuming that those bulbs are crushed in the landfill, EPA estimates that the left mercury within a CFL, about 11%, is released into air or water. The atmospheric mercury mingles with rain and snow and drops into lakes, river and watershed. This is where the food chain contamination begins. The mercury contaminates the fish, unfortunately mercury accumulates at ever-increasing levels when larger fish consume contaminated smaller fish. Those fishes, such as large tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel can have mercury level in their bodies that are 10,000 times higher than those of their surrounding habitat. Then humans and wildlife eat the fish. Just imagine the Standford University research on mercury finds out that 5 milligram Mercury can contaminate up to 6000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels.Yes, so much can the effect goes just because we avoid CFL recycling.
The Mercury Effect on Human Body.
So, what happens when mercury gets in the human body ? Common symptoms of brief contact with high mercury concentration are loss of appetite, fatigue, eye irritation, skin rashes, and insomnia, while exposure to even small amounts of mercury within a long period may disturbs the brain and nervous system, damage the kidney and lungs effects fertility and blood pressure regulation with further consequence of heart disease and faster memory loss.
Pregnant women and small children are most sensitive to hazardous impacts of mercury exposure, with risk of various effects, from delaying walking and talking, learning disabilities, deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy to mental retardation for the infant. Thus avoiding mercury exposure is strongly recommended for them. While for adult, mercury exposures commonly effects fertility and blood pressure regulation with further consequence of heart disease and faster memory loss. Most symptoms usually disappear when exposure to mercury discontinues, however, effects on the brain and nervous system may be permanent.
The Mercury Effect on Wildlife.
In December 2007, EPA’s Mercury Study Report to Congress identified that the most pervasive wildlife impacts involve decreased breeding capability, which now causes severe impacts for water birds throughout North America and some endangered species such as panthers, in the Florida Everglades. Lots more dangerous impacts of mercury contamination on wildlife are reported in many places, some even risking to extinction.
Other benefits we get from recycling CFL.
When recycling CFL, almost all components of a fluorescent lamp can be reused. The metal parts are usually being scrapped and sold as scrap metal, glass tube can be recycled into production of bulb or other glass products, the mercury powder can be reused for new fluorescent bulb and other mercury-containing device such as thermostat, mercury switch etc.So recycling CLF is not just preventing the mercury contain from contaminating our bodies, but also saving our natural sources and trimming down the industry lines, thus cutting down the industry pollution.
It is true that there are other sources of mercury contamination out there, instead of just from (your) burnt out CFL bulb, but did you know : approximately 670 million fluorescent light bulbs are discarded each year in the United States. These discarded bulbs can release approximately 2 to 4 tons of mercury per year into the environment if not properly disposed ( recycled ). So let’s campaign CLF recycling, starting with our bulbs !
So if you now realize how important recycling CFL is, you might also want to know why CFL lamps are (yet) considered as today’s greenest lamp despite of its mercury contain, and learn how to recycle a burnt out CFL bulb.