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Edison’s Last Laugh: CFL Bulbs Dangerously Toxic if Broken

John on December 23, 2010 at 4:05 am

Edison was a genius and also something of a bastard. No really. He fought the AC vs. DC power system battle by traveling the country electrocuting animals to demonstrate how dangerous AC current was. There’s a surviving film of him electrocuting an elephant which you can find on You Tube. Like I said, kind of a bastard. Well, if the old bastard were still around today he’d have a good laugh about the latest news about compact fluorescent light bulbs:

Levels of toxic vapour around smashed eco-bulbs were up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area, the study said.

It added that broken bulbs posed a potential health risk to pregnant women, babies and small children…

The study, for Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, tested a ‘worst case’ scenario using two CFLs, one containing 2 milligrams of mercury and the other 5 milligrams. Neither lamp had a protective casing and both were broken when hot.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute found that they released around 7 micrograms (there are 1,000 micrograms in a milligram) per cubic metre of air.The official guideline limit is 0.35 micrograms per cubic metre…

High levels of mercury were measured at floor level up to five hours after the bulbs failed.

I’ve bought a few of the CFLs for the house and I can say without hesitation that they’re a real disappointment. The 60 watt “equivalent” bulbs aren’t nearly as bright as incandescent bulbs they claim to match and the light they do produce is much bluer and uglier. So, sure, I’m saving energy. I also can’t see which was sort of the point. There are a few new led bulbs coming out that I haven’t tried yet. This would seem to be the way to go if the price would drop and the designs would improve.

Oh, and Edison did lose the AC/DC battle (served him right). Tesla’s AC system was far superior (and less dangerous) than Edison’s DC system which is why it’s still in use in homes around the world today.

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Category: Science & Tech |

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