Are compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) the next green solution to be discredited?

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The recent news regarding the major downsides to ethanol got us thinking about other recent movements, from traditionally wasteful technologies to newly touted solutions.  Specifically, we wanted to look at the trend from traditional light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which have been receiving so much attention lately.  Our concern was with the fact that these CFLs contain a certain amount of mercury, which we’ve been taught our whole lives is potentially deadly.  Fortunately Slate had a recent piece discussing this very issue. 

The gist of the Slate article is that CFLs are a much better option than traditional light bulbs.  On a macro level, because CFLs use significantly less energy, it reduces the need for coal generated power, which releases substantially more mercury  into the environment (a hot topic right now) than that included in the CFLs.  On a personal level, the article indicated that the amount of mercury contained in CFLs are so small as to not provide a real health risk even if the bulb is broken.   The main problem that currently exists, however, is that these new bulbs need to be properly disposed of in order to avoid releasing mercury into all of our landfills on a large scale.  Fortunately, many stores like Ikea, are offering free disposal, and the hope is that more options (hopefully at the city-level) will be coming soon as CFL use becomes more widespread.

Photo via Ian Langworth 

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