Tuesday 29 July, 2008

Environmental groups warnof mercury in CFLs


ENVIRONMENTAL groups have asked government and manufacturers of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to find ways to minimize and ultimately eliminate the use of mercury, a neurotoxin, in energy-saving bulbs and to ensure that used CFLs are properly disposed.

The Ban Toxics!, EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace Southeast Asia expressed their concern on mercury in CFLs following the country's planned phase out of incandescent bulbs by 2010 and the shift towards greater use of CFLs.

They said the six-page paid advertisements of the Department of Energy in the launching of the "SWITCH Movement" did not contain any precaution against the mercury content of CFLs. Each CFL contains 2 to 6 milligrams of mercury.

A fact sheet by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said exposure to mercury can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver, causing symptoms such as trembling hands, memory loss, and difficulty in moving. Mercury is also capable of causing birth defects.

Manny Calonzo, president of the EcoWaste Coalition, said the public needs to be told not only of the energy and climate benefits of CFLs, but also of the risk involved when it is accidentally broken, improperly discarded or burned.

Calonzo said there must be a ban against putting spent bulbs in bins or dumps and that government must find ways to stem their disposal. He said throwing of CFLs in waste bins has been outlawed in some places like California since 2006.

The EcoWaste Coalition said government must also impose clear rules on how CFLs should be packed and transported to prevent mercury pollution in case of road or sea accidents.

Lawyer Richard Gutierrez, Ban Toxics! coordinator, said government should encourage

manufacturers and importers of CFLs to sell products that are compliant with the European Unionīs Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which imposed lower levels of mercury in electrical and electronics products.

Von Hernandez, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the electrical and electronics industries should find a safe substitute for mercury in CFLs, which are fast becoming the industry standard for energy efficiency.

Hernandez said the mercury problem could be eliminated by the upcoming high efficiency halogens and light emitting diode (LED) technologies already in the market.

Meantime, the environmental watchdogs said government should require CFL manufacturers and retailers to institute a take-back program to ensure that spent mercury-containing bulbs are properly disposed.