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.
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:
- “The CFL Mercury Myths,” Energy Saving – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- “Mercury and CFLs: Stop Whining and Recycle,” Treehugger
- Always, check Snopes.com
- “CFL Produces Less Mercury Pollution,” Technorabble
- “NEMA Lamp Companies Announce Commitment to Cap CFL Mercury Content,” press release from National Electrical Manufacturers Association
- “A Response to Mercury Levels in CFLs, and an Angry Comment,” The Good Human
- “Wal-Mart Muscles Manufacturers into Low Mercury CFLs ,” EcoGeek
- “CFL Bulb Mercury Emissions,” CBLL Internet
Update May 10, 2008: The Ellsworth, Maine, newspaper’s environmental reporter tells what should have happened, on his blog.