The Meliorist – It takes you…

{February 26, 2008}   CFLs – not the panacea?

So, yet again, I’ve been driven to question whether there is anything that is good for the environment.  CFLs or Compact Flourescent Lights have been touted as the answer to conserving energy and money in today’s well-lit homes and workplaces.  I had not done the total switchover, but had decided not to buy any more regular bulbs in order to utilize these savers.  So, imagine my surprise when I read this little blurb on Debt Proof Living:

CFLs do use less electricity, but I am not convinced the savings are sufficient to warrant the additional cost to buy them in the first place.
The jury is still out on whether CFLs are better for the environment. So far the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them. It seems that disposing of them presents more problems than anything they’re supposed to fix. |
CFLs contain toxic mercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and it’s especially dangerous for children and fetuses. The problem with the bulbs is that they’ll break before they get to the landfill.
They’ll break in containers, or they’ll break in a dumpster or they’ll break in the trucks. Workers may be exposed to very high levels of mercury when that happens. And if they break at home, you run the risk of contaminating your home or yard. CFLs are troublesome.  (DPL, Feb. 2008)

I just heard a story this weekend about the horrific effects of mercury poisoning.  I was aware that mercury was dangerous, but I did not know just how bad the health effects of exposure could be.  I had not heard about these potential negatives of CFLs prior to reading this article.  I had heard a bevy of reasons as to why I should switch, but nothing I read ever provided these caveats.  So, I decided to do some fact checking.

I was relieved to read this blurb at

That said, the mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs currently does not pose a major problem — and you know I don’t take pollutants lightly. In municipalities such as Grist’s hometown of Seattle, which is emphasizing conservation as a cost-cutting measure and pushing CFLs to the point of sending them free to ratepayers, there is an attendant concern about the solid-waste-disposal effects down the road. But let me emphasize: The tiny punctuation of mercury should not stop you from buying CFLs, any more than it stops you from wearing a watch.
One final note: Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity creates mercury pollution. Thus using compact fluorescent bulbs actually reduces mercury pollution, because CFLs use far less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Hmmmmm… equal to that of a watch battery eh?   That seems pretty darned miniscule.  But, it would not be the first time we had said that the effects would be small only to realize later that the we were wrong, wrong, wrong.  But, then I read this at National Geographic: “One CFL contains a hundred times less mercury than is found in a single dental amalgam filling or old-style glass thermometer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”  That is pretty miniscule!  And to add fuel to the fire – the reports on CFLs causing mercury pollution problems have been lobbied by Fox News.  Not the most dependable of news sources to be sure.

I’ll finish up with this quote from the National Geographic article:  “”By using less electricity, CFLs help reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants, which are the largest source of human-caused mercury emissions in the United States,” said agency press officer Ernest Jones.”  I  feel like my previous decision to make the switchover to CFLs is a good one.  And I feel like I’m glad that I explored the issue further after reading the Debt Proof Living article.  Although I think that publication has some valuable money-saving information each month – it just proves that rumors and twisted reporting can call any concept into question if we are not careful.

So, get those CFLs burning – just be as careful as you can with them to prevent breakage and if possible, take them to a recycling or toxic waste facility when they burn out instead of throwing them in the garbage.  And do the same with those watches that stop running!  And those old thermometers you have laying around!

{February 26, 2008}   The Meliorist Returns…

I am returning from a long hiatus….its been a really busy six months and I’ve been trying to figure out where to focus my energies.  I have realized that although I have a ton of interest areas and a lot of things I would like to do, I need to focus my energies on a few things at a time.  I’ve spent the last six months focused on my job.  Since it was my first six months in this position, I felt like it was important to focus my energies on that.  But, I’ve also dipped my toe in the water of a few other bodies of water.  Although a few of those things seemed to be right at the time, my interest of them quickly wained.  I have some issues with commitment – no doubt about that.  But, I think its more of a problem with focus.  I just have too many things I want to do in life.

So, I’m returning to this blog in the hopes of focusing some of that energy into a blog about my political frustration, sharing knowledge that may help (or frustrate) others, and hopefully to spur people to think about multiple sides of an issue.

Its almost the end of February in this leap year – and if nothing else remains the same, time always seems to fly.  But, its still pretty early in the year and I’m jumping back in at a key time in US politics.

So, here’s to getting out there, gathering information and then taking the important step of acting on it when necessary!  It takes you!

et cetera