The first time I saw a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb was on Earth Day three years ago. This spiral-shaped light fixture was being given out free by the state of New Jersey during an event emphasizing the best ways to save energy, stem global warming and “go green.”
I took it home and replaced an incandescent bulb in my bedroom with this curious-looking new one, having been told that was one of the easiest but most important steps I could take to help save the planet – and some money, too!
Since that time the CFL bulb has become the icon of environmental awareness. And after all, who wouldn’t want to do something so simple that could be so beneficial to the environment? It seemed like a no-brainer.
If you, too, have been conned into believing the myth that CFLs are the best thing you can do for the Earth next to walking to work instead of driving, or recycling every bit of paper, plastic and glass you use, you’re far from alone. So have tens of millions of other Americans.
Unfortunately for the consumer who was sold this bill of goods by both industry and the government, CFLs pose a number of hazards to our health that no one told us about when they were trotted out as the energy-saving fix that was a “must” for every household.
The energy bill and the myth that put our health at risk
Back in 2007, the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) put into motion seemingly innocent measures, all under the guise of benefits to consumers and better use of resources, that pose serious risks and are having hidden biological impacts on people exposed to them – especially kids.
And unless you are some kind of political junkie, watching C-Span all day, you probably were not very aware of this legislation to phase out the “old faithful” incandescent bulb that’s been lighting up our environment – without much change – for 130 years.
But the incandescent bulb is now down to its last year of service, with the final versions, the 60- and 40-watt, due to bite the dust this January. The EISA plan to replace the innovative genius of Thomas Edison with bulbs that meet the new energy-efficiency requirements has created a number of unintended consequences in the form of both a toxic mercury hazard and an invisible blue-wavelength light given off by these particular bulbs that can quite literally cause you and your family sleepless nights, with all the ill effects that can come from getting too little sleep.
What that could mean for the health and safety of you and your family includes:
- the creation of a temporary “biohazard zone” in your home should one of these bulbs accidentally break, releasing the mercury it contains;
- possible exposure of small children to both mercury vapors and dust that may persist after a cleanup (especially if it is less than thorough or if the area is poorly ventilated);
- interruption of the production of melatonin, a hormone that not only helps adults and children fall asleep, but is of great significance in maintaining health and warding off disease;
- disruption of “circadian rhythms,” the inner clock that regulates how well we function each day;
- excessive exposure to UV light that can damage skin and potentially lead to skin cancer, and
- increased eyestrain and headaches from the light produced by CFL bulbs.
Perhaps of even greater significance, researchers have found that autistic children tend to have melatonin deficiencies, and that over 70 percent of such kids suffer from difficulty sleeping, waking frequently during the night and making a decent night’s sleep a distant memory for their parents.
In upcoming blogs, CFK will be providing further illumination of this important topic, and show you how to light up your life in a way that will most benefit your family and the environment without the risks involved in using a seriously flawed technology.