Susan Stamper Brown

Ninety-six. That’s the number of 60-watt incandescent light bulbs I purchased last weekend after learning the other kind, the compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) environmentalists are so in love with, are hazardous to my health and to the environment. I would have preferred a higher wattage but discovered the 75-watt version was outlawed January 1st.

It took about three hours to replace every CFL bulb in my house and carefully place them in a huge plastic container used to transport them to the recycling center at a local home improvement store. I said a quick prayer for safety while coasting down the road in my SUV. A HAZMAT decal would have come in handy because had I been in a collision, I had enough mercury on board to make the evening news. And because I am a Conservative, they might have labeled me a home-grown terrorist.

CFLs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Back in 2008, some Yale University scientists isolated CFLs’ benefits down to one: lower energy bills. The scientists questioned whether a little savings was worth the danger attached to mercury exposure and “runoff downstream.”

Besides making the environment sick, researchers recently discovered these “environmentally friendly” light bulbs aren’t friendly to humans either. According to the UK Telegraph, CFLs “should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head” because “they emit poisonous materials when switched on.” The report found those “carcinogenic substances” should be “kept as far away as possible from the human environment” because they may cause migraines, skin problems and breast cancer. Great.

It really makes no sense. Somehow it’s okay to have mercury housed in delicate glass bulbs inside every home in America, yet the EPA feels compelled to enact new regulations like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) limiting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants promising MATS would raise kids’ IQs, prevent a substantial amount of premature deaths, reduce heart attacks, and lessen childhood asthma. I’d settle for weight control and whiter teeth.

Sounds wonderful. Problem is, the EPA’s logic is about as twisted as a CFL, considering most people don’t live next to a coal-fired plant, but every home in America using CFLs is at risk of mercury exposure.

They say the pricey CFL’s are cost efficient, but fail to mention their measure for efficiency decreases if the bulbs are switched on and off. Nor do they discuss the outrageous price per bulb or the gas usage (carbon footprint) involved in transporting old bulbs. They also fail to factor in human nature; most people will simply discard old bulbs instead of spending their Saturday driving to the recycling center.


Susan Stamper Brown

Susan Stamper Brown's weekly column is nationally syndicated. She can be reached at writestamper@gmail.com or via her website at susan@susanstamperbrown.com. Her Facebook page can be found here.