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Directory:Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL) Downsides

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Existing design and manufacturing indicate safety issues were not addressed as well as they could have been. This page looks for solutions to recognized problems regarding CFLs.

While we applaud the trend toward more energy efficiencies, like anything else, compact fluorescent bulbs have a down side. This page is presented to document some of those, so an informed decision can be made and by pointing out the problems, solutions might be produced/encouraged.

"I'm no big fan of incandescent lamps, and would use more CFL's myself if I could find ones of quality that last a reasonable time or even as long as the incandescents they replace, but they are an interim technology, which will give way to LEDs before the decade is over." (Kim L. Ground of Tampa, FL USA; April 18, 2007)

Contents

Overviews

  • Lighting > CFLs > Downsides >
    The CFL Fraud - Well-sourced article says Compact Fluorescent Bulbs pose a major fire hazard. Toxic mercury in CFLs are downplayed, while breakage creates a dangerous environment. Bulbs are burning out faster than expected; don't fit in some fixtures; often grow dimmer over time; will not operate at low temperatures; emit high percentage of UV; shouldn't be tossed in the trash. (American Thinker; April 19, 2011)
Technical Solutions for CFLs Health Issues
  • Add diffusers to bulbs to eliminate UV light distribution (available today).
  • Add better capacitors to circuits and shielding to the ballasts to remove high frequency dissemination and interference.
  • Find another less toxic material for the vapor in the tubes to remove mercury and other hazardous materials from the process(?)

Manufacturers need to address these issues in order to avoid health-based lawsuits raised due to poorly performing products.

Note
If you installed CFLs and are now suffering from migraines, nausea, arthritic-like conditions and/or skin rashes, remove all of the CFLs to see if that resolves the issues.

Videos

  • Just how safe are CFL Light Bulbs? - UV Light from CFLs are causing skin sensitivity issues and migraines, because they do not have a prismatic diffuser and because of "dirty electricity". 30 minutes. (16:9 Global TV; Jan. 9, 2009)

Light Bulbs vs. The Nanny State (2.07 Minutes) October 5, 2009 "In September 2009, the European Union banned the sale of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, with lawbreakers facing up to $70,000 in fines. Over the next few years, bans on lower-wattage bulbs kick in. In the United States, similar legislation comes into play in 2012. The idea is to kickstart the market for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less energy than conventional incandescents. Although CFLs present any number of problems (even beyond a much higher initial cost), governments all over the globe are determined to make them the new standard." Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie.


Remy: Missing You - The Incandescent Light Bulb Song (2.30 Minutes) December 1, 2011. Remy mourns the impending loss of his beloved incandescent light bulbs with a song set to familiar music.

Written and performed by Remy and produced by Meredith Bragg


"Be Green" Segment 3.42 Minutes, September 29, 2010. 6.06 Minutes, November23, 2010.

Don't Last Like Linear Fluorescent Bulbs

  • Compact Fluorescent Light is One Crispy Critter - Margery Conner said; "CFL lifetime is influenced by its application... lights that are installed in either down lights or ceiling globes in my house have a much shorter life than those installed in a table lamp." (Electronics Weekly; Nov. 5, 2008)
"Since they have become a commodity item, most of the CFLs on the market are cheaply made. A fluorescent lamp should last for decades. In fact, if you live in an older house you may have some conventional straight or circular lamps which have been in place for decades and are still functioning well. But the new CFLs have an electronic ballast, and that is where the cheapness is built in. I have never had one of the low cost CFLs from Home Depot or Ace Hardware last even a year, and the part that fails is always the electronic ballast.
Keep Your Receipts!
"I have had very bad luck with Sylvania CFLs quiting after about 2 years while the normal lights in the same room are still fine. Keep your receipts! If they promise 5 years hold them to it. I have had to exchange about 5 bulbs so far, all Sylvania! The Philips and others are still going good after 2-3 years and I have had some of the old GE CircleLights last for more than 8 years now.
"I can't wait for LED lighting to get affordable, because I am not paying $50.00 and up for a light bulb." (Kim L. Ground of Tampa, FL USA; April 18, 2007)

Carbon Footprint

Incandescent Bulb 1) Glass bulb 2) Inert gas 3) Tungsten filament 4) Contact wire (goes to foot) 5) Contact wire (goes to base) 6) Support wires 7) Glass mount/support 8) Base contact wire 9) Screw threads 10) Insulation 11) Electrical foot contact
Incandescent Bulb
1) Glass bulb
2) Inert gas
3) Tungsten filament
4) Contact wire (goes to foot)
5) Contact wire (goes to base)
6) Support wires
7) Glass mount/support
8) Base contact wire
9) Screw threads
10) Insulation
11) Electrical foot contact
Typical CFL Schematic
Typical CFL Schematic
CFL Ballasts usually contain at least 24 electrical components
CFL Ballasts usually contain at least 24 electrical components
CFL showing elements and UV warning label
CFL showing elements and UV warning label
CFL Innards 1) Twisted Glass bulb (usually handmade) 2) Mercury gas and phosphors 3) Elements 4) Lamp Base 5) Ballast (PCB board, electronics) 6) Wires to electrical foot contact 7) Screw threadsPoer  8) Electrical foot contact
CFL Innards
1) Twisted Glass bulb (usually handmade)
2) Mercury gas and phosphors
3) Elements
4) Lamp Base
5) Ballast (PCB board, electronics)
6) Wires to electrical foot contact
7) Screw threads
Poer 8) Electrical foot contact
Incandescent Schematic
Incandescent Schematic

There is something just a bit hypocritical in stating that the carbon footprint of CFLs is less than that of incandescent light bulbs, if one looks at the manufacturing processes of both.

Incandescents have a much shorter material list than CFLs. Also factor in the cost of special cradle-to-grave handling and disposal/recycle for CFLs, besides the labor involved in twisting the glass by hand, manufacturing, gathering and soldering the discrete electronic components and hazards involved in coating the glass with phosphors and adding the mercury and other toxic gasses.

No CFLs are manufactured in the Americas or Europe. Why? The health standards for manufacturing are not as strict. All are manufactured in either China or India. Factor in overseas shipping and handling expenses.

Now that you have that long list, figure the carbon footprints.

Incandescents are becoming more efficient as well (GE ceramic technology from 2007).

At the moment, incandescents create 5-10% light and 90-95% of the energy input goes to heat. With CFLs, 25% of the energy input goes towards making light and 75% goes to heat. CLFs are between 10-15% more "energy efficient", while using as much as 75% less electricity, using sophisticated electronics. (theWatt)

Energy in kWh used in manufacture, operation and recycle. Break-even for CFLs is somewhere between 50-80 hours of operation vs. incandescants. From "theWatt"
Energy in kWh used in manufacture, operation and recycle. Break-even for CFLs is somewhere between 50-80 hours of operation vs. incandescants. From "theWatt"
Energy input required to manufacture a CFL bulb and an incandescent bulb.
Energy input required to manufacture a CFL bulb and an incandescent bulb.

The total energy input for the production of a CFL light bulb comes to 1.7kWh compared to 0.3kWh for a single incandescent light bulb.

Note: Not included in the manufacturing costs for CLFs on this graph are the mining of materials associated with the various phosphors or the mercury. Nor are transportation costs factored in (imports).

"8 grammes of waste are produced in the manufacture of the incandescent, but 128 grammes are produced in the manufacture of a Compact fluorescent of which 78 grammes are hazardous." (Save the Bulb CFL Autopsy) (Original information derived from spreadsheets prepared for the European Parliament Energy savings committee.)

Efficiencies

"Most CFLs have a claimed power factor of around 0.52 (where the figure is given at all), so a 15W CFL will actually draw just under 29VA. Because the load is not linear, the current waveform is in phase with the applied voltage, but is discontinuous. This simply means that current is only drawn at the peak of the waveform, and this effect causes a poor power factor just as readily as a phase shift between voltage and current.

The nasty waveform created by CFLs is another thing that is going to come back and bite us on the bum. Any spike waveform means that significant harmonics are added to the mains waveform, and although CFLs are only a small percentage of 'nasty waveform generators' at present, the situation will get a lot worse.

An anecdote on the power factor issue was sent to me ... Apparently a company in the UK installed a large number of CFLs in a building where the lighting was primarily on one phase. It burnt out the neutral link in the fuse box and caused a small fire! The high peak current of all non-power factor corrected CFLs can cause problems where they are used in large numbers. For example, 25 x 75W (incandescent) lamps will draw 7.8A - just within the 8A rating for lighting circuits in Australia. The power factor is 1 because of the resistive load. If replaced by 25 x 13W CFLs, although the RMS current is lower, the peak current is over 10A (based on the 410mA peak current as shown in Figure 11). No problem at all so far, but ...

Here is a practical demonstration of the real impact of power factor CFL versus the Generator

What if the installer decides that many more lamps can be connected to the circuit because of the lower power? Based on the claimed RMS current for a typical 13W CFL (~95mA is typical), it would seem that you can run 80 CFLs on the same lighting circuit (80 x 95mA = 7.6A). Unfortunately, the peak current is 80 x 410mA = 32.8A. The wiring won't overheat, but in-line connections (junction boxes), switches and other terminations may fail because they are expected to handle the high peak current continuously - well above their design ratings (especially if a connection is very slightly loose). Remember too that the switch-on surge (inrush current) will be many times higher again - if we assume only 4A (fairly low in reality), the first cycle inrush current could be as high as 320A if all lamps are turned on at once!" Power Factor

CFLs work best if left on for over 15 minutes at a time. Saving electricity by turning off CFLs shortens the life of the lamp. How is that efficient? Answer: It is not.

Most CFLs do not work with Dimmer circuits. In fact it can be dangerous to operate standard CFLs on a domestic dimmer, either or both the lamp and dimmer can dangerously overheat! Standard domestic dimmers are a bit of a bodge. They rely on the resistive path of the incandescent lamp to provide a neutral path for the dimmer's electronics. This doesn't exist in a CFL. You will find that even CFLs designed for dimming do not respond perfectly, many will flicker badly when turned down and none will dim smoothly to extinction. They rely on a further bodge in electronics to make them wok at all!

Expense

Compact Fluorescents still cost more than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Where is the economy in that?

These higher upfront costs can be hard for consumers to bear, but are repaid quickly. A $7 USD bulb will payback between 35-70kwh of usage, depending on market rates. For a 100watt bulb this is 90-180 days based on 4 hours per day usage. Compact Fluorescents more than pay for themselves, if they don't have to be replaced nearly as often as incandescents and they offer considerable electric operating cost savings of around 75% over incandescents. Poorly manufactured ones can be bought for $1 USD.

  • CFLs Causing Utility Woes - EDN reports that compact fluorescent bulbs use more energy than claimed due to their poor power factor, in the range of 0.45 to 0.50. While consumers are only charged 13 Watts for a 60-Watt incandescent equivalent bulb, the utility has to generate 28 watts. (Slashdot; Apr. 8, 2009) (Discussion)

"I am afraid this is not quite true! In Europe. We have the same low power factor lamps as in the US. The only country mandating high power factor lamps is New Zealand where they have 80% generation by renewables, mostly HydroElectric schemes. These are in the South Island, however the main users of electricity are in the North Island. There is a DC interconnector between the two islands that is highly sensitive to power factor variations. Their energy agency demanded power factor of better than 90% on all lamps that were sold under subsidy schemes. The power factor does not affect domestic electricity meters. You are paying for the rated wattage, however twice as much electricity must be generated wiping out 50% of the supposed carbon savings by changing to these lamps!" (Kevan Shaw, Feb. 20. 2009)

Electronics Hazards

Fire Hazards

2.28 Minutes, February 15, 2010.

Recognizing the Health and Safety Issues

Are you epileptic or have Lupus? If you don't know, you soon will find out with these bulbs. These bulbs will bring on seizures and skin rashes. Verified.

Electro-Smog Pollution


Dirty Electricity Explained (8.22 Minutes) December 23, 2010

  • Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity - "Although effects of electromagnetic fields on the body are established, sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity report responding to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (or electromagnetic radiation) at intensities well below those permitted by international safety standards."
  • CFL Impact - "Dedicated to those who are impacted by the CFL's and Dirty Electricity, as well as the researchers and other professionals who are working so diligently to inform the public about these issues."
What Is “Dirty Power”? 

"For close to 100 years, high frequency transients—also known as “electrical smog”, “electrical pollution”, as well as “dirty power”—have been a known artifact of 60 Hz electricity. This dirty power, or high frequency transients, is the “fuzz” or oscillating spikes that appear on the humps of the sinusoidal electrical wave when electricity is turned off and on very rapidly. Sources of electricity with this rapid on/off cycling can be varied, including modern electrical equipment, florescent lights, and dimmer switches." (La Quinta Middle School Cancer Site)

Note

Bonneville Power once published a red book on "Electrical and Biological Effects of Transmission Lines: A Review" from December 1996, that discusses adverse effects to the human body of Electro Magnetic Radiation. It contains excellent information. Their document request line was 1-800-622-4520. Ask for it by name.

Mercury Poisoning

There probably should be more concern about mercury content in coal than in CFLs. Mercury is a neurotoxin.

  • Understanding Mercury in CFLs and Lamp Recycling - 1-page PDF. The five milligrams of mercury in a CFL is roughly equivalent to the amount it would take to cover a ballpoint pen’s tip. There is no substitute in CFLs for mercury at this time. (ICF International)
Note
Manufacturers are reducing the amount of mercury found in newer CFLs. This will reduce the life of the bulbs, but it will also reduce the possible effects of mercury poisoning or contamination if the bulbs leak or are broken.
"If a fluorescent lamp is broken, mercury can contaminate the surrounding environment. A 1987 report described a 23-month-old toddler hospitalized due to mercury poisoning traced to a carton of 8-foot fluorescent lamps that had broken. The glass was cleaned up and discarded, but the child often used the area for play.

The experience of a Maine homeowner, and the articles above popularized the opinion that broken CFLs required bio-hazard cleanup. The Maine DEP, the authority upon which that homeowner worked has a more complete record of the event:

"If readings are 300 ng/m3 or less, the area is considered to not require any additional actions."

"The only value within the room that was over 300 ng/m3 was directly at the bulb breakage location on the carpet."

"To visualize the area of high readings, it could be covered by a dinner plate. All other values in the room, including in the first floor room where some residue might have fallen through the vent, were well below the 300ng/m3 action level. Based upon this information, the State Toxicologist assured the homeowner that the potential mercury exposure would be very low and likely of negligible health concern."

In addition, there are other problems with the article 'CFLs pose mercury hazard':

1) It refers in several places to 'the mercury powder'. -- mercury is a liquid or gas at room temperature. The gas or vapor is the health risk, liquid mercury poses virtually no risk at all except in that it 'boils off' into the vapor at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure.

2) Who did these mercury level measurements, and how were they made? There is less than a drop of mercury in a CFL or regular fluorescent tube. The test results are highly dependent on the way the samples were collected. A sample taken a few cm from the site of the spill and showing high mercury levels DOES NOT imply a high level of mercury in the room or even a few feet away. Instead of anguishing over the cost and abandoning a room of her house, why doesn't this woman just cut out the shag carpet and throw it away, then get another measurement made?

(On the second visit) "the Department responder found no measurements over 300 ng/m3, including at the point of impact. However, the carpet piece was removed by the responder at the request of the homeowner."

Phosphor Poisoning

The larger health risk with any fluorescent tube beyond mercury, is found in the phosphors - they are rich in beryllium (a known carcinogen), europium, terbium and heavy metals like bismuth, cadmium and strontium found in the electronics.

Also found in CFL phosphors and electronics - Antimony (known toxin), lanthanum, manganese, tin salts, yttrium.

Note
Beryllium compounds were used in early versions of CFL and we are told it is no longer used in manufacture due to the effects of Berylliosis or chronic beryllium disease (CBD) found in those who manufactured the fluorescent tubes.

Ever seen the results of a cut from a broken fluorescent tube? They get infected quickly and are very slow to heal, usually leaving some ugly scar tissue. The phosphor is the culprit.

UV Light Emissions

Fluorescent lamps emit a small amount of UV light and a recent study in the US found that UV exposure from sitting under fluorescent lights for eight hours is equivalent to only one minute of sun exposure. However, UV light can affect sensitive paintings, especially watercolours and many textiles, so valuable art work must be protected from fluorescent lighting. The UV light causes UV degradation and can also cause pigment fading.
Since fluorescent lamps produce a small amount of UV light, they can trigger problems among individuals with very high pathological sensitivity to ultraviolet light. They can induce disease activity in very photosensitive individuals with Systemic lupus erythematosus; standard acrylic diffusers absorb UV-B radiation and appear to protect against this. In rare cases individuals with solar urticaria (allergy to sunlight) can get a rash from fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lamps with magnetic ballasts flicker at a normally unnoticeable frequency of 100 or 120 Hertz and this flickering can cause problems for individuals with light sensitivity, they are listed as problematic for individuals with epilepsy, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and vertigo. Research on this is very limited. Fluorescent lighting can also induce depersonalization & derealization, subsequently, it can make depersonalization disorder worse[citation needed]. (Wikipedia:Fluorescent_lamp)
"A recent study from the United Kingdom Health Protection Agency has found that there are measureable levels of UV from single envelope CFLs when used at distances closer than 1 foot. As a precaution, it is recommended that these types of CFLs not be used at distances closer than 1 foot, for more than one hour per day." (USDA Center or Devices and Radiological Health)

Companies

Manufacturers
  • PureSpectrum Inc Essentially has gone out of business after loosing nearly $8 million.
  • Ecobulb - This New Zeland based company have one of the best CFL products available. They are trying to enter the American market as Ecospiral
  • Eco-Glo - Karma Industries from India, claims to have EMI-RFI filters in their CFLs.
Suppliers

Research and Development

Ballasts and High Frequency
"Low cost ballasts mostly contain only a simple oscillator and series resonant LC circuit. When turned on, the oscillator starts, and the LC circuit charges. After a short time the voltage across the lamp reaches about 1kv and the lamp ignites. The process is too fast to preheat the cathodes, so the lamp instant-starts in cold cathode mode. The cathode filaments are still used for protection of the ballast from overheating if the lamp does not ignite. A few manufacturers use positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors to disable instant starting and give some time to preheat the filaments.
"Since introduction in the 1990s, high frequency ballasts have been used with either rapid start or pre-heat lamps. These ballasts convert the incoming power to an output frequency in excess of 20 kHz. This increases lamp efficiency. These are used in several applications, including new generation tanning lamp systems, whereby a 100 watt lamp (e.g., F71T12BP) can be lit using 65 to 70 watts of actual power while obtaining the same lumens as magnetic ballasts. These ballasts operate with voltages that can be almost 600 volts, requiring some consideration in housing design, and can cause a minor limitation in the length of the wire leads from the ballast to the lamp ends. (Wikipedia:Fluorescent_lamp)
"The application note from International Rectifier provides the design of a 13W CFL compact using an IR53H420 Integrated Half-Bridge device. It is able to drive a 13W lamp from 110 or 220 VAC input, 34kHz frequency of operation and Softstart with cathode preheating. Instant start ballasts require an instant-start certified lamp and ignite a lamp in about 80 milliseconds or less using a high frequency electronic circuit. It starts the lamp without heating the cathodes by using a high voltage at around 600V." (Electronic Ballast Design)
  • PRINCIPLES OF H.F. OPERATION AND FREQUENCY LIMITS - "Increasing the frequency of operation from that of the normal mains supply of 50/60 Hz to typically 30KHz improves lamp efficacy by approximately 10%. The high-frequency mode results in low power loss at the cathodes which means more power is available in the arc. All well designed HF ballasts have a power factor of almost unity. This takes into account phase displacement of the fundamental components of supply current and voltage waveforms and also the harmonic distortion of the current waveform." (Fitzgerald)
Features in the 4.0 version include support for dc input voltage applications and a new time-domain graph feature, based on a simplified numerical analysis technique. It shows ballast output waveforms, including the half-bridge voltage, lamp voltage and current and resonant inductor, and resonant capacitor current." (International Rectifier)
Mercury
"Mercury is slowly absorbed into glass, phosphor, and tube electrodes throughout the lamp life, where it can no longer function. Newer lamps now have just enough mercury to last the expected life of the lamp. Loss of mercury will take over from failure of the phosphor in some lamps. The failure symptoms are similar, except loss of mercury initially causes an extended run-up time to full light output, and finally causes the lamp to glow a dim pink when the mercury runs out and the argon base gas takes over as the primary discharge. (Wikipedia:Fluorescent_lamp)
UV
  • Electronic Ballast Design - Electrical energy flows though the gas causing it to give off ultraviolet light (UV light) that excites a white phospor coating on the inside of the tube. This coating emits visible light.
Shielding

Solutions

Note
Selenium is also a toxic substance. Nano-selenium lowers the toxic levels considerably.
"Encapsulated (double envelope) compact fluorescent light bulbs, which look similar to traditional domestic light bulbs, do not emit significant amounts of UVR. The larger long tube "strip lighting" design fluorescent lights, commonly used in offices, workplaces and homes for many years, can also be used on ceilings without any special precautionary measures." (Health Protection Agency'; Oct. 9, 2008)
"The industry welcomes the precautionary measure which purely relates to single envelope compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for desk or task(1) lighting in very close proximity. The use of commonly available double envelope (2) type CFLs in these situations is considered entirely safe. CFLs of both types are regarded as entirely safe for general illumination (3). The precautionary measure requires that where people can be in very close contact (less than 30 cm) with non-shaded single envelope (4) light bulb for more than an hour at a time the CFL lamp should be replaced by a double envelope type. Alternatively it should be moved so that it is at least 30 cm or 1 ft away."
1. Task lighting is lighting designed to illuminate work stations at close proximity.
2. Double envelope lamps are generally those which look like a conventional light bulb as they have a secondary enclosure around the fluorescent tube.
3. General illumination is that which provides the main illumination for a room and not close proximity lighting for special tasks.
4. Single envelope lamps are those where the fluorescent tube is not shrouded by an outer layer, generally these are a series of straight tubes or a coiled tube. (Lighting Association)

Other Bulb Technologies

  • Philips Halogena Energy Saver - Philips Halogená light bulbs offer a midpoint in energy efficiency between compact fluorescents and regular incandescent bulbs. A halogen bulb's advantages over a compact fluorescent are that it instantly reaches peak brightness instead of gradually, it can be used with dimmers, its life isn't affected by frequent on-off activity, and it contains no mercury. (Consumer Research; Jan. 10, 2009)
  • More efficient Incandescent lamps - Foster-Miller is releasing aselective ceramic emitter that has a much larger fraction of the emission in the visible compared to the infrared region.
  • GE Announces Advancement in Incandescent Technology; New High-Efficiency Lamps Targeted for Market by 2010 - "Advancements to the light bulb invented by GE’s founder Thomas Edison, that potentially will elevate the energy efficiency of this 125-year-old technology to levels comparable to compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), delivering significant environmental benefits. These advancements will 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." (GE; Feb 23, 2007)

Sadly, GE stopped work on this technology towards the end of 2008 as a reaction to the global economic downturn. There is work in Europe on advanced microstructured Tungsten that will increase the efficiency of incandescent and tungsten halogen lamps, however there is no date for when this technology will be ready to bring to market.

  • Sulpher Plasma Lamp - Originally invented in the USA back in the early 1990s, this uses a microwave magnetron to bombard sulpher in a fast spinning quartz globe. The sulpher reaches plasma stage and emits vast quantities of light across a broad spectrum. This technology is now owned by this company and LG in Korea who have developed the system to an lamp efficiency exceeding 100 Lumens per Watt, however the total lumen package is so high, it is only useful for industrial applications at present.

FYI

Noble Gases

"Noble gases are commonly used in lighting because of their lack of chemical reactivity. Argon, mixed with nitrogen, is used as a filler gas for incandescent light bulbs. Krypton is used in high-performance light bulbs, which have higher color temperatures and greater efficiency, because it reduces the rate of evaporation of the filament more than argon; halogen lamps, in particular, use krypton mixed with small amounts of compounds of iodine or bromine.[59] The noble gases glow in distinctive colors when used inside gas-discharge lamps, such as neon lights, which produce an orange-red color. Xenon is commonly used in xenon arc lamps which, due to their nearly continuous spectrum that resembles daylight, find application in film projectors and as automobile headlamps." (Wikipedia:Noble_gas)
  • Argon = Blue color.
  • Krypton = Purple color.
  • Neon = Orange color.
  • Xenon = White color.

Mercury is not a noble gas. It is a metal and produces atoms with wavelengths in the Ultraviolet spectrum. Phosphor salts are used to convert that to visible light. The glass envelope is supposed to prevent UV light from escaping. Mercury vapor works with noble gases to produce light, once it is excited with electrical current.

Directories

  • Think Twice Before You Buy Energy Saving Compact Fluorescent Bulbs - New research has shown that some energy saving compact fluorescent lights (CFL) can emit dangerous ultraviolet and electromagnetic pollution at levels that, under certain conditions of use, can result in exposures higher than guideline levels which cause devasting health effects on some people. (Prevent Disease; Jan 2009)
  • The Law of Unintended Consequences – CFLs and Wind Turbines - The cheap CFLs, according to the video, may save electricity, may be "eco-green", but they apparently are very "dirty" in spreading electric frequencies not conducive to human well-being (migraines) and in distributing UV light (acting like direct sunlight), causing skin rashes. (macCompanion; Feb. 1, 2009)
  • Dirty Electricity - Electrical pollution is not something you can see, smell, taste, or touch. It is not something you can sense, making it difficult for one to be aware of the presence of electrical pollution.
  • Should There be a Ban on Incandescent Lamps? - "For those who want to know more about power factor, the use of CFLs in existing luminaires, or any of the other factors involved, please read on." (Elliott Sound Products; Aug. 29, 2008)

Legal Issues

Government and Politics

  • UK and US legislation - PDFs of Bills, papers and presentations on the move to CFLs and away from incandescents. (Save the Bulb.org)
  • USDA Center or Devices and Radiological Health - "Fluorescent lamps, including CFLs, are electronic products subject to Section 532 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Section 532 of the Act authorizes FDA to establish and carry out an electronic product radiation control program designed to protect the public health and safety from radiation that may be emitted from electronic products, such as the UV that may be emitted from CFLs."
"Although FDA regulates CFLs under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21 Part 1000, there are currently no specific standards or annual reporting requirements for CFLs. Manufacturers of CFLs are subject to CFR 21 part 1002.20, which requires CFL manufacturers to report accidental radiation incidents should any occur. In addition, CFR part 1003.10 requires manufacturers to notify FDA in the event of a product defect or failure which would result in an accidental exposure incident."
  • Federal EPA Mandates - US Congress debates the EPA-mandated law requiring a conversion to CFLs and what it takes to clean up a broken CFL bulb. (YouTube) 5.13 Minutes. (vodpod;June 3, 2008)
5.14 Minutes June 11, 2008.

REP. Ted Poe Republican Texas speaking in the U.S. House on the energy savings bill, and the mandatory use of CFL light bulbs. From C-SPAN

In the News

  • Featured: Health > RE Issues > Body Electric >
    Beware: Dirty Electricity from Clean Energy - There are some issues that we all need to be aware of regarding "clean energy" and some dire health ramifications from things such as smart meters, solar inverters, wind turbine frequencies, and CFLs. A device's impact on human health should be a primary consideration in deserving the label of "clean energy." (PESN; January 6, 2013)
  • Why it's time to throw some light on the energy efficient lighting row - The Daily Mail campaign against the removal of incandescent bulbs from UK shops earlier this month ricocheted through the media, generating comments and criticisms from all sides of the debate and leaving consumers and businesses in a state of confusion as to where the truth lies in this complex topic. (Business Green; Jan 20, 2009)
  • When CFLs Fail: How to Keep Your Compact Fluorescent Glowing - These pricey bulbs go out with an occasionally smoky, smelly bang, and, like any other product, they can fail well before their promised lifetime. But if you treat your CFLs right, they’ll give you long, energy-sipping lives. (Popular Mechanics; Jan. 15, 2009)
  • More CFL Issues - Not all CFL bulbs showed UV radiation problems. Only about 20% of coiled bulbs emitted UV, perhaps as a result of inconsistencies in manufacture resulting in thin spots in the glass or phosphor coating variations. (About My Planet; Jan. 14, 2009)
  • Energy-saving bulbs 'can cause migraines' warn experts - Energy saving light bulbs can trigger migraines, health experts and charities warned. They have been inundated with complaints about the fluorescent bulbs, which are due to become compulsory in homes within four years. (Mail Online; Jan. 4, 2009)
  • Getting burned and getting smart about CFLs - "Don't get me wrong: The suckers make sense, whether you care about conserving energy or cash (or both). But I wish the utilities, government agencies, green gurus and Cameron Diaz would be a tinch more honest about the limitations of CFLs. That at least might lure back consumers turned off by twisties gone wrong." (Oregonian; Dec. 19, 2008)
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Problems—and Expert Fixes - Premature failures - and no real fixes. (Popular Mechanics; Aug. 2008)
  • CFLs and Mercury: The Lesser of Two Evils? - CFL manufacturers are consistently working to create a better, safer product. While one of the world’s largest companies, GE, is researching newer, lower-mercury CFLs, other firms are attacking a variety of other CFL issues, such as a shorter “warm-up” time and dimmer-switch compatibility. Though CFLs are already a clear environmental favorite, the future only holds further refinement for the technology. (Cleantech Forum; May 20, 2008)
  • CFL Problems Coming to Light: Good News for LED’s - The problems of CFL’s include a light quality that people do not like, difficulty in dimming, and safety issues related to their mercury content. (Energy Investment Strategies; Feb. 29, 2008)
  • The shape of lights to come? Not everyone's buying it - Now that more people are using CFLs, the bulbs' shortcomings are giving some consumers pause. Consumers are raising concerns about the quality of light from such bulbs and say they often don't work well with dimmer switches, in certain light fixtures or in hot or cold conditions. (USA Today; Feb. 28, 2008)

Recalls

Recycling Centers

Places to drop off bad bulbs:

Recyclers

Discussion

See Discussion page

  • CFLs- A Tale from Dust to Dust - "When evaluating energy consumption or CO2 emissions of a technology, the full lifecycle of the product should be considered, not just its lifetime productivity. A proper analysis should include the CO2 emissions or embodied energy associated with all of the raw materials, all of the transportation and distribution, the operation and finally the recycling or decommissioning of the product."
  • Mystery solved: crappy CFLs - Many manufacturers have been cutting corners and putting C.F.L.s of lesser quality on the market, skewing consumers’ perception of the technology. (Environmental Economics; Jan. 27, 2009)
  • CFL Bulb and Touch Sensitive Lamp - "As soon as I turned on the ceiling fixture at the wall switch both the CFL bulb and the touch lamp started freaking out - flickering strongly, the touch lamp cycled through its brightness levels. Within about 30 seconds the CFL went out and never came back on." (The Stucco Company; Oct. 28, 2007)

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