Recently, ExxonMobil has been running a series of commercials on the impact that compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can make on energy savings — a campaign I consider tremendously ill-conceived. What those TV spots should be promoting are energy-saving light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. When the whole story is told, it’s obvious that ditching those CFLs needs to become an urgent priority.
So what, exactly, is the problem with CFLs? Don’t they save energy and resources, as the commercials claim? Not really when you consider the “true” cost of those curly bulbs. What the commercials don’t mention is the potential health hazard CFLs pose to consumers and the eventual threat they pose to the environment.
First, there’s the mercury they contain, which can become especially dangerous in the event that one of them should break. A single broken CFL can quickly spread toxic vapors throughout the area, putting your family at risk of exposure — and that’s not even to mention the complicated process of having to remove the mercury residue from your home, which is outlined on a web page from the Environmental Protection Agency. Then there’s the problem of disposing of them. What are the environmental consequences of millions of these bulbs being dumped into landfills? The EPA doesn’t have a clue about how many are being discarded in the trash, as there was never an “official” disposal plan contemplated before they hit the market.
But mercury contamination is just one of the problems with these bulbs. They’re also a source of UV light that has actually caused sensitive people to develop rashes and skin irritations. But perhaps most alarming is the fact that they emit high levels of blue spectrum light that can inhibit melatonin production at night and result in sleep deprivation — something that can in turn lead to all sorts of medical problems, including depression. Yet, unlike ads for pharmaceuticals, there’s not a word of warning about these potential “side effects.”
That’s why I’d like to ask anyone reading this blog to email or call ExxonMobil, as I have, and let them know that that they shouldn’t be plugging these hazardous products — especially at a time when they are already being replaced by much safer ones that are every bit as energy efficient. Let them know that encouraging consumers to utilize this deeply flawed technology is setting the stage for disaster, both to individuals and to the environment. Consumers deserve to be told the whole story about CFLs.