Contact Us

Member Directory
Event Calendar
About Us
Case Studies
Green Building Resources

Featured Member:
Lawrence Young

Benefactor Business Member:

CFL'S - Are They Really all that they are Cracked Up to be?


By Jim Crowley (SiGBA Foothills Chair) Owner Crowley Builders, Inc. and E-Building Systems

After hearing a strong comment during a presentation by a person that I have a very high regard for in the Green Community, about the danger signs of CFLs, I decided to do some research of my own  

Seems that a new alarm is being sounded, mainly about the mercury in a CFL light bulb. It isn t so much about the level itself, which is 4 to 5 milligrams, which in volume is about the size of the period at the end of a sentence, but the collective amount that is going into our Hazard Waste Sites and the danger of a broken bulb and how to properly clean it up.

It's starting to prove itself out that CFLs do not last as long as the early reports said they would. In fact they are only lasting about 1/3 of the life expectancy they are suppose to. This means that a far larger volume is going to the Hazard Waste Sites causing a much higher collective volume than these sites were originally prepared to handle.

These cute, trendy and so-called green Twisty Bulbs have other hidden dangers. Health Canada is reporting the dangers of potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation. The United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency said in October that open, or single envelope bulbs, which have a corkscrew-like or tube like design, can emit ultraviolet radiation at levels that can result in exposures to UV radiation similar to exposing bare skin to direct sunlight. They are recommending that you do not spend more than 1 hour a day in the immediate vicinity of a CFL light bulb. Our own (The United States of America) Consumer Product Safety Commission is silent on the subject. Imagine that!

The biggest danger is proper disposal, which is second only to when a CFL bulb gets broken. You can go to and check out the 16 point checklist for the precautions that need to be taken when a CFL bulb gets broken. Short of calling in a Haz-mat team, there are major precautions that need to be taken. Maine's Department of Environmental Protection adds to the 16 point list to wear protective equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses, coverall or old clothing that can be thrown away and a dust mask to keep bulb dust from being inhaled. After going through the 16 point check list and you have the cleanup done make sure you label the waste container stating it to be Hazardous Waste to be properly disposed of. Oh, my God! This is starting to sound like one of those drug commercials. This product is perfectly safe buuuuuuuuuuuutt " you make experience vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness and please don t operate machinery or drive a car once you are stupid enough to take our safe drug,

Do people in general know that CFL bulbs ARE NOT to be thrown in with the regular trash? I did a personal survey and only found one person out of ten that got the answer right and none of them knew the precautions that should be taken when a bulb broke.

Fact is that CFL bulbs do use 1/4 the amount of energy as an incandescent bulb. They lessen greenhouse gases and If every American home replaced just one standard incandescent light bulb with a long-lasting (the jury is still out on the truth of that statement) CFL, the resultant energy savings would eliminate greenhouse gases equal to the emissions of 800,000 cars, according to the U.S. Energy Star program.

I find that history is repeating itself here. You and I are the guinea pigs for the new drug on the market and once enough of us die or are injured then those agencies that are suppose to protect us will pull it off the market in the general public's best interest.

Am I being too dramatic here? Being an alarmist!!!!!!!!!!!! You be the judge. I do know that if you find that the benefits for lighting your home or work place outweigh the negatives, educate yourself on proper handling and disposal of this product. Doesn't appear that our Consumer Protection Agencies are doing a very good job of that. 

Mail can be sent to: SiGBA P.O. Box 4245 Truckee, CA 96160

© Copyright 2019 Sierra Green Building Association