Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Many Men In HazMat Suits Do You Need To Change A Light Bulb?

One of the deadliest substances known to man is mercury.  That's the stuff in the old thermometers that would rise and fall with your temperature.  If you ever broke a thermometer (which I did one time) you felt you needed a hazmat suit after you read how to clean the mess up.

Guess what substance is a key element in the fluorescent lights that Congress mandated that we all use in the future?  You guessed it-mercury.  If you aren't up to speed on this little piece of legislation that was passed in 2007, the Heritage Foundation provides a summary.
In 2007, Congress passed an energy bill that placed stringent efficiency requirements on incandescent bulbs in an attempt to phase them out beginning in 2012 and replace them with more expensive but more energy-efficient bulbs, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Politicians used a distorted view of creative destruction mixed with global warming concerns to sell the regulation. They said it would create jobs, save consumers money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what’s really happened?

Politicians, as they typically do, fail to see the unintended consequences of their legislative agendas. When it comes to CFLs, for example, the exposure to mercury vapor is dangerous if the bulbs are broken. Hospitals and medical charities warn that CFL bulbs cause migraines and epilepsy attacks. Other critics also point out that CFLs do not work well in colder temperatures and thus will force Americans to use more heat. CFLs do not work well with dimmer switches, and the lifespan of the bulb diminishes when turned off and on frequently.
Have you ever broken a light bulb?  The clean-up is inconvenient but not death defying.  Check out the recommended clean-up procedure for the CFL's in this post in Powerline.
  A short excerpt:
Before Cleanup
* Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.
* Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5‐10 minutes.
* Shut off the central forced‐air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
* Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:
o Stiff paper or cardboard
o Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)
o Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
o Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)
Got that? Now you are ready to start cleaning up the toxic substances you didn't want in your house in the first place.

"This is kind of slippery."
It gets much worse when you get to the actual clean up.  Please have your hazmat suit ready because you will need to throw any clothes you are wearing away unless you also want to contaminate your washer and dryer.
I am in favor of saving energy.  I love the environment.  I love saving money.  However, what is wrong with letting people decide how to meet these goals without bans and mandates?    If CFL or anything else is worth the cost and effort it will win out in the market.  If I want to keep burning an incandescent bulb why should I be banned from doing so?
There is legislation introduced (H.R. 91) to repeal the ban on incandescent light bulbs.  Let's hope common sense can be restored.  Why is it that most everything that we need worked on in Congress right now is a repeal bill? 

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