CFL Bulbs: A Not-So-Bright Idea?

Lowering our energy usage is a wonderful thing. Lower energy usage saves us money and reduces greenhouse gases. What could be better?

cfl bulbsThe US government has a great plan to help us reduce our energy consumption. The government is phasing in a program to make selling incandescent light bulbs illegal. The government wants us to switch over to CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) because they use 66% less energy than incandescent light bulbs and last about 8 times longer.

The US Energy Star Program estimates that if every American home replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb the energy savings would be enough to light 2.5 million homes for one year and would eliminate the same amount of greenhouse gases caused by 800,000 cars.

But, are the energy savings worth sacrificing your family’s health?

There are two major problems with CFLs. First, they contain mercury, which we all know is hazardous to your health. If the CFL is broken, mercury can be released into the air and is extremely difficult to clean up. Just read the EPA recommended procedures for cleaning up a broken CFL.

broken cfl bulbsBefore Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shutoff the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:

    • Stiff paper or cardboard
    • Sticky tape damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
    • a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.


During Cleanup

    Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  • Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.


cfl bulb disposal

Wonder why they don’t tell you to wear a respirator?

After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.
  • Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.


The second major problem is how the CFL affects your health, and it’s not in a positive way.

Watch this short video and see what potential risks your family may experience by using CFLs.

cfl bulbs dirty electricity

CFLs also produce what scientists call “Dirty Electricity“, which can cause numerous health problems. What’s worse is that the amount of dirty electricity in your home multiplies for every CFL bulb you have in your home. Incandescent light bulbs and LED Light bulbs do not produce dirty electricity.

cfl bulbs comparisonAfter doing the research for this article, I was convinced of two things. First, I won’t rule out stockpiling incandescent bulbs before they are outlawed.

Second, I’ll be investing in LED light bulbs as the price comes down. LED light bulbs are pricy, but even more efficient and longer lasting than CFL bulbs without the harmful side effects.

Do some of your own research and draw your own conclusions. One thing I know for sure, our health is our most important asset.

To your health,
Tim Koehler