How many WorldNet Daily hoaxes does it take to change a light bulb?

Earlier I pointed to a hoax article foisted by WorldNet Daily, claiming families would face exorbitant hazardous waste clean up costs if they broke a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFLs).

Not only did WorldNet Daily never apologize to its readers, the paper is at it again, campaigning in favor of pollution and global warming, trying to scare people who switch to lights other-than-tungsten.

Hoaxmeister Joseph Farah uses an over-the-top, breathless tone: HEAT OF THE MOMENT
Light-bulb ban craze exceeds disposal plans
Facts about CFLs, heir to incandescents, downplayed in government-enviro push”

Could anyone take that seriously? As Dave Barry used to say, “I could not make this up,” the “danger” from CFLs shows up in serious discussion forums. This forum, inaptly titled “Straight Talk,” demonstrates that people really do believe such hoaxes, especially about things they know very little about, like mercury poisoning.

Folks, five will get you ten, if you told these people about massive mercury poisoning that really exists in the Hudson River, and warned them against eating fish caught there, they’d claim you were an alarmist tree-hugger and laugh it off — though the mercury levels and potential for health-damaging exposure are both significantly greater for fish caught in some rivers, like the Hudson, than they are for broken CFLs.

But just try to suggest a small way to work against global warming, and they’ll pull out that same mercury poisoning argument to justify doing nothing and letting pollution win.

A warning to these people to “use your head” goes completely unheeded, heads having been lost some time earlier.

Here’s an example of just how far Farah twists the facts in order to make his hoax case against CFLs. First, Farah all but calls CFLs a communist plot (he claims the move to use them started in Cuba, under Castro — a dubious claim at best, and funny any way you cut it). Then he points to a Swedish firm marketing the bulbs in the U.S. — them furriners can’t be trusted, Farah implies. The firm is IKEA — never mind they are fine examples of capitalism run rampant. Third, Farah cites an editorial in Waste News , but makes it appear the publication said something the opposite of what it said.

Here’s what Farah wrote:

Those who really care about this problem right now are those involved in the waste industry.

“Most agree more energy-efficient light bulbs can significantly curb air pollution, but fewer people are talking about how to deal with them at the end of their lives,” explained a page 1 story in the April 2 issue of Waste News. It goes on to explain “there is no plan to address air and water pollution concerns that could develop if consumers improperly dispose of the mercury-containing devices.”

Gee, that’s pretty dire. No plans at all for disposal? Are we getting a pig in a poke?

Waste News actually said the bulbs are a “significant” environmental improvement. They point out weaknesses in current recycling, but they stop way short of urging people not switch to CFLs — here, read for yourself, the conclusion Waste News draws is quite a bit at odds with Joseph Farah’s version.

Managing CFL endgame
Waste News, April 02, 2007

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a hot environmental trend these days, and with good reason. They require substantially less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last several times longer. Used on a large scale they can dramatically reduce our energy needs and therefore the pollution we create. With their longer life they’re ultimately an economical choice as well.

But CFL bulbs aren’t perfect. They contain mercury, albeit a small amount compared with mercury thermometers, automotive switches and the standard 4-foot fluorescent lamp. Still, there’s no large-scale plan in place to manage the end-of-life handling of these bulbs, and having the mercury end up in the environment certainly is undesirable.

Strong warnings about the need for proper disposal could dissuade customers from buying CFLs, which most people believe are far better environmentally even with their mercury – an element essential to their energy efficiency. Consumers also could get confused about what types of bulbs to throw away and pitch ones with higher mercury. Broken bulbs also pose multiple health risks to waste haulers. Meanwhile, more governments are moving to ban mercury from disposal.

Pressure will be on manufacturers to take responsibility for this. Sylvania is one lighting company that has started to do so, offering take-back programs that involve a fee for consumers. And several lighting companies have agreed to voluntarily limit the mercury content of lower wattage CFL bulbs.

Lighting producers need to continue on this course, and do so sooner rather than later, even though the issue may be years away because sales are still small and the bulbs’ long life makes wide-scale disposal relatively distant. But a sound plan for the products’ end will remove a potentially big obstacle to a significant environmental improvement.

Hello? I thought there were no plans to do anything, according to Waste News — but when I read the article, it says Sylvania already has a program and others are ready to go. Is there no standard of ethics at WorldNet Daily?

Update June 10: More information at these sites:

Update May 10, 2008: The Ellsworth, Maine, newspaper’s environmental reporter tells what should have happened, on his blog.


3 Responses to How many WorldNet Daily hoaxes does it take to change a light bulb?

  1. […] See follow-up story here — after Joseph Farah repeated the sins! […]


  2. suntaxindia says:

    Compact Fluorescent Lamp – Devil in disguise
    D.C. Agrawal

    Energy conservation lobbyists conveniently overlook the obvious fact that household light bulbs are primarily used at night-exactly opposite the time of day in which utilities experience peak load demands for daytime heating, air conditioning and commercial lighting .According to ELCOMA an Association of Electrical Lighting Manufacturers in India, lighting in India consumes 18% of total power generation, whereas the share of incandescent bulbs in power consumption is only 6% of total power generation. The Lighting industry in India has a total turnover of 4500 Crores out of witch the incandescent bulbs share only 600 crores, FTL 1100 crores, CFL 700 & other special lamps & luminaries share is 1900 crores, (Source:

    Reducing nighttime light bulb consumption of kwhs will do almost nothing to shave peak demand. Moreover, with non-peak kwhs reduced at night, utilities will now have fewer revenues on which to earn a return on their invested capital. Utilities must build up their physical plant to meet the peaks, and the capital to finance that equipment has to be paid for 24 hours a day. Thus, utilities will have to raise rates on the remainder of the kwhs we use for everything else, from washing machines to hair dryers to computers.
    Household power used by light bulbs is actually dwarfed these days by major appliances and high tech consumer electronics- such as wide screen TVs, computers and video games along with internet servers, the biggest energy hogs besides cars and trucks.

    And since the new CFLs produce inferior light compared to incandescent, we’ll need more of them to read, shave, comb our hair and brush our teeth. Assuming literacy and personal hygiene are still hallmarks of civilized life after the global warming alarmists are done with their crusade to rid us of the blessings of the evil civilization.

    By banning the incandescent light bulb Government will forcibly remove a staple commodity from the marketplace, replacing it with products that are far more expensive, less reliable and more hazardous, notably the much ballyhooed compact fluorescent light bulb(CFL).

    And guess where the extra purchase prices for these CFLs will wind up? In the pockets of Chinese manufacturers or MNC’s. As Chinese manufacturers add enough manufacturing capacity to produce ten times as many CFLs , they will need several new coal-fired power plants to run the new factories. This comes on top of the already breathtaking pace today of construction in coal fired electric power plants in China – at a clip of one new plant every week. Don’t even think asking about what kind of pollution control will be
    operating on those Chinese plants.

    The skyward CFL’s cost will be a tax on poor people in the India so the Chinese can add more coal fired power plants. Now that’s a bright idea.

    CFL’s contain mercury. You didn’t know that? Just a drop you say? How about up to 5 milligrams per CFL. If all 1000 Lacs incandescent bulbs were filled with CFL’s we’d have 5000 lacs milligrams of mercury spread around every single Indian household. By
    the way, 5000 lacs milligrams is nearly 50,000Kg.

    Those 50,000 Kg of mercury amongst 10000 Lacs people, if indiscriminately thrown away, will eventually find its way to your favorite landfill and public drinking water supply. Knock over a table lamp and shatter a CFL in your house, and you have a toxic waste situation on your hands right in the living room, bedroom or dining room.
    On the other hand, at least half of all mercury emissions from coal fired power plants currently are captured by scrubbers, and clean coal technologies promise to eliminate 2/3rds of what remains. Not so for CFLs– which can’t operate without mercury?

    The new CFL’s are inferior as

    1. CFL low-energy light bulbs are up to twenty times more expensive to produce than the standard tungsten-filament bulbs

    2. You might also like to know that the manufacture process for CFLs uses up to ten times the energy used in the manufacture of traditional bulbs.

    3. In addition, CFL’s need much more ventilation (top and bottom).

    4. Low-energy light bulbs do not give off a steady stream of light as they flicker fifty times a second, which can be expected to contribute to health and safety problems, with associated financial costs, down the line.
    5. A technical study of ERTL (East) Calcutta on CFL’s shows that these lamps discharges ultra violet rays which are harm full to eyes and causes skin cancer.

    6. But perhaps worst of all, is the fact that low-energy bulbs are currently made using toxic materials. Chief among them is mercury, a substance that, ironically, the EU banned from its landfill sites just last year. For the EU nations special recycling arrangements will have to be made to dispose of CFLs thus incurring a further cost. With between 3 and 5 milligrams of mercury in each CFL and with an estimated 150 million CFLs sold in the United States in 2006, that’s a whole lot of non-recycled bulbs that could end up in garbage dumps. Mercury can affect the nervous system, damage the kidney and liver and, in sufficient quantities, can kill. No wonder scientists and environmentalists are worried.

    7. All the CFL manufactures claims its long life more than 5 years or in technical terms 6000 hrs to 10000 hrs. Is it true in Indian conditions? The answer is not at all in Indian condition. CFL’s have built in electronic Blasts (PCB), which require a constant voltage supply of electric as other appliances require. In India there is regular voltage fluctuation in power supply. So the Life of CFL’s is very much less than the declared life by the manufacturers. Nobody will use voltage stabilizers for CFL’s. In India All the companies are selling the CFL’s on one year warranty. Now all the ELCOMA members have decided to withdraw this warranty. Why? The data of all companies shows that replacement of CFL from the markets is more than 20-40% in one year of warranty periods. It means that mostly CFL failed to complete the 1500 hrs life instead of declared life of 6000hrs.The study of these failure CFL’s shows that 80% lamps failed due to
    failure of electronic blast due to irregular voltage power supply, use of inverters & generators.

    In Europe the ban on incandescent lamps , due to come into effect in under two years, does not give much time to EU member states to plan for the changes, a decision taken centrally without consultation with member nations. Thus the EU has chosen to pursue the same dictatorial path chosen by Cuba’s Fidel Castro (in an attempt to ease the strain on the island’s hard-pressed electricity grid) two years ago.

    The potentially hazardous CFL is being pushed by companies like Wal-Mart–a distributor of GE, Royal Philips, Osram Sylvania and Lights of America which wants to sell 100 million CFL’s at 5 times the cost of incandescent bulbs during 2007 and surprisingly, became an environmentalists?

    It’s quite odd that environmentalists have embraced the CFL, which cannot now, and will
    not in the foreseeable future be made without mercury. we’re looking at the possibility of creating billions of hazardous wastes sites. Usually, environmentalists want hazardous materials out of, not in, our homes.

    Greenpeace also recommends CFL’s, while simultaneously bemoaning contamination caused by a mercury thermometer factory in India. But where are mercury-containing CFL’s made? Not in the U.S. or EU, under strict environmental regulation but in India and China, where environmental standards are virtually nonexistent.

    Like Greenpeace, the activist group Environmental Defense urges us to buy CFL’s, it defines mercury on a separate part of its Web site as a “highly toxic heavy metal that can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in fetuses and children” and as “one of the most poisonous forms of pollution.” Lisa finaldi, Greenpeas USA, Michael bender, ban Mercury working group, are running drives since several years against the use of mercury thermometers. These are the same people that go berserk at the thought of mercury being emitted from power plants and the presence of mercury in seafood. Many local governments in several countries have even launched mercury thermometer exchange programs.
    We can understand easily that in a housing unit we use at the most one piece of thermometer. Can you imagine? What will be happen when we use at least 4-5 pieces or more mercury based CFL’s in a house?

    We’ll eventually be disposing billions and billions of CFL mercury bombs. Some (much) of the mercury from discarded and/or broken CFL’s is bound to make its way into the environment and give rise to Superfund liability, which in the past has needlessly disrupted many lives.

    Are CFL’s manufacturers of India following the Laws laid down by the government of India? Are the consumers,& distribution agencies know their social, corporate responsibilities for environment?

    Mercury is not mined in India. There is a thriving illegal trade in this commodity. Besides the import of virgin mercury, mercury-containing instruments, mercury compounds, electrical and electronic substances containing mercury and mercury compounds etc are also imported in large quantities.
    According to the Canadian Global Emissions Interpretation Centre (CGEIC), which has published data on the spatial distribution of mercury emissions in air, India is one of the world’s mercury hot spots, with mercury being released into the air uniformly at a rate of 0.1–0.5 tonnes per year, with coastal areas having an even higher emission rate ranging between 0.5 to 2.0 tonnes per year. According to the CGEIC, anthropogenic emission of mercury is estimated to have increased in India by 27 per cent in the last decade. Clearly, mercury emission is a major problem and action needs to be taken now.
    Estimates place release of mercury into India’s environment between 172.5 – 200 tonnes annually, and these figures exclude releases from other fossil fuels. This amount represents a grave danger for the country. The five super thermal power plants in the Singrauli area, which supply 10 per cent of India’s power, are responsible for 16.85 per cent of total mercury pollution through power generation.
    The Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 also covered mercury in the standard for emission of certain industries. The Hazardous Waste Management and Handling Rule (1989) list mercury and mercury containing waste as hazardous waste.
    The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989, which also covers a few mercury compounds. The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 specifies standard for mercury content in ground water, leach ate and composts.
    Mercury is included in The Workmen’s Compensation Act and The Factories Act, which mainly deal with occupational hazard, and compensation.
    A draft notification was circulated by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in 2000 for a phased elimination of mercury from consumer products, but so far no action has been taken.
    At the industrial level, the Government of India has banned the commissioning of new mercury cell based chlor-alkali plants since 1991. Central Pollution Control Board/Ministry of Environment and Forest had organised a series of industry specific interaction meeting to formulate a Charter on Corporate Responsibility for Environment Task forces were also constituted for overseeing the implementation of CREP. Chlor Alkali industry was also covered under the CREP programme. Under this programme, chlor-alkali plants are to phase out mercury technology by 2012 and there have been certain restrictions on mercury usage as well as discharge. But again, there has been no clarity on how the converted plants are disposing off the current mercury stocks.

    With all the above rules & regulatory programmes the government of India is trying to phase out and eliminate mercury from other existing industries while on the other hand it is promoting the mercury based CFL industry especially in non polluting zones like Doon velly, Trai of Kumaun of Uttrakhand, Hamachal etc . That’s a bright Idea!
    In developed countries like USA,EU etc the use of mercury in various products is either banned or regulated. No concrete initiative has however been taken by the Government of India to address the issue.
    Instead of focusing on the ban on incandescent bulbs, government of India should concentrate its efforts against the CFL manufacturing and be ready to recycle the hazardous waste of these industries & make strict law that recycling of the waste is corporate responsibilities of manufacturer’s of CFL, distributing agencies & duty of municipal corporation, state governments.
    Two multilateral environmental agreements cover mercury and mercury compounds: the Basel Convention on Control of Tran boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. These instruments regulate trade in unwanted chemicals, pesticides and hazardous wastes. However, they do not contain specific commitments to directly reduce usage and release of mercury. These loopholes are effectively exploited by multinational industries, which are using India as dumping grounds for cheap mercury and outdated mercury technologies.
    According to US government scientist Steve Lindberg, the concern about mercury includes the fact that some of it emitted from landfills is in the form of vaporous methyl-mercury, which can get into the food chain more readily than inorganic elemental mercury released directly from a broken bulb or even coal-fired power plants,
    Lindberg, emeritus fellow of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory said.” Disposal of any mercury-contaminated material in landfills is absolutely alarming”
    There is problem with recycling is that, it isn’t cheap. Larry Chalfan, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance environmental group, said the value of the metal, glass and mercury reclaimed from recycling fails to offset the cost of the process. “Someone has to pay,” he said, Costs can range from 20 cents to 50 cents per bulb — not a paltry sum when some CFL,s sell for less than $2 at Wal-Mart. There may be some municipal waste collection services besides commercial recyclers , some retailers should accept used CFLs. People who are going to accumulate these things from the public are going to have to address the fact that breakage will happen. There’s the potential for contamination, and people are a little hesitant to volunteer to take on this liability.
    Matt Hale, director of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste said Even the U.S. government has no single recycling plan in mind. Some methods lend themselves to certain geographic areas more than others, Hale said, because of differences in population density, transportation infrastructure and proximity to recycling sites.
    The question is- in a country of more than one billion people almost double the population of USA-how effectively these mail back and drop off programmes can be implemented.
    As each CFL contains 5 milligrams of mercury, at the Maine “safety” standard of 300 nanograms per cubic meter, it would take 16,667 cubic meters of soil to “safely” contain all the mercury in a single CFL. While CFL vendors and environmentalists tout the energy cost savings of CFLs, they conveniently omit the personal and societal costs of CFL disposal.
    Not only are CFLs much more expensive than incandescent bulbs and emit light that many regard as inferior to incandescent bulbs, they pose a nightmare if they break and require special disposal procedures. Should government (egged on by environmentalists and the Wal-Marts of the world) impose on us such higher costs, denial of lighting choice, disposal hassles and breakage risks in the name of saving a few ruppees every year on the electric bill?

    GE Developing Incandescent Light Bulb That Matches CFL’s EfficiencyDon’t count Thomas Edison out yet. Last month General Electric Co. said it was working on doubling the energy efficiency of incandescent lights and eventually developing versions comparable with CFLs. These bulbs, which the company hopes to begin marketing in 2010, will cost less than fluorescents but they won’t last as long.
    GE says that advancements to the light bulb invented by GE’s founder Thomas Edison could potentially elevate the energy efficiency of this 125-year-old technology to levels comparable to compact fluorescent lamps. Over the next several years, these advancements could lead to the introduction of high-efficiency incandescent lamps that provide the same high light quality, brightness and color as current incandescent lamps while saving energy and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
    According to GE, the new technology could be expanded to all incandescent types. The target for these bulbs at initial production is to be nearly twice as efficient, at 30 lumens-per-Watt, as current incandescent bulbs. Ultimately the high efficiency lamp technology is expected to be about four times as efficient as current incandescent bulbs and comparable to CFL bulbs
    One positive for Incandescent bulbs is that Incandescent don’t face the recycling hurdles that CFLs do. CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin, and manufacturers, retailers, and the government has yet to come up with effective ways to recycle them.

    : – 48k –


  3. Yvonne says:

    I appreciate this article because it’s cause is to reduce the fear factor that is being thrown out to the consumer. Switching to CFLs is one of the simplest solutions around to address our global warming issue. Fluorescent lamps have been around for years and until recently, I had yet to hear that they were life threatning. Why is it that whenever positive solutions come about for important situatuions there must be those that will immediately go for a negative spin?


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