Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Recycle new light bulbs and avoid mercury risk

By CHANTAL COOK
Capital News Service

LANSING – The Michigan State Medical Society recently warned Michigan residents of the dangers of not properly disposing of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

The public should correctly dispose of compact fluorescent bulbs because the mercury contained in them can cause public health hazards, MSMS representatives say.

Doctors are concerned about environmental and health risks from mercury in the bulbs.

When released into the environment, mercury starts the cycle of methyl mercury. Methyl mercury exposure has been linked to birth defects, impaired brain and nervous systems, according to Michigan Energy Options’ website.

Joel Wiese, director of marketing for Michigan Energy Options in East Lansing, said small amounts of mercury are found in all fluorescent bulbs.

The organization is non profit and focuses on promoting quality energy efficiency and it has run the Change a Light, Change Michigan program since 2006. It encourages residents to replace old incandescent bulbs with CFLs.

“The biggest risk is with handling or breaking it,” Wiese said.

He said when bulbs break, people should open windows in the area and leave for 15 minutes, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

CFLs are found to reduce light costs by 75 percent, Wiese said.

The MSMS said LED bulbs are a good alternative because they contain no mercury and can provide greater energy savings than CFLs.

Robert McCann, press secretary for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said LED bulbs cost more.

“LED bulbs are more expensive than fluorescent bulbs and not mainstream. The process has to mature a bit more,” McCann said.

He said a recent problem is that LED bulbs tend to shine light straight up, causing a limited area of light.

Also, people should recycle all bulbs properly and not throw them in the trash, Wiese said.

Areas throughout the state, including the Kalamazoo City Commission, recycle CFBs.

For more information on how and where to go to recycle CFLs, go to http://www.michiganenergyoptions.org.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Environment

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