Only months after it was found that energy saving fluorescent bulbs release carcinogenic chemicals into the air, a new study has found that these harmful chemicals are continually released from the bulbs over a period of weeks to months. Furthermore, the study also found that the levels of mercury released exceed those that are considered safe for humans. For owners of new ‘green’ homes that are extremely well sealed with little exposure to outside air, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp) may pose even more of a threat.
The study, which examined the mercury content of 8 different CFL brands, was published in the Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed online only journal published monthly by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The amount of liquid mercury (Hg) that initially leaches from a broken CFL is lower than the level allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While there is really no “safe” level of exposure to toxic mercury, CFL makers are able to sell their products based on this regulation. The problem, however, is that over time the amount of liquid mercury released may exceed the level set by the EPA. Research conducted by Yadong Li and Li Jin, Jackson State University (Jackson, MS) found that over longer periods of time, the CFLs emit carcinogenic chemicals far beyond the “safe” level set by the EPA.
“This paper is a very nice holistic analysis of potential risks associated with mercury release from broken CFLs and points to potential human health threats that have not always been considered,” according to Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate College, University of Vermont (Burlington).
While rapid removal of broken CFLs can minimize hazardous conditions, the bulbs continue to leak mercury elsewhere into the environment. CFLs are a threat to human health as well as environmental integrity, and more research must be conducted before they are toted as a ‘safe’ and ‘environmentally-friendly’ alternative to conventional light bulbs.