In response to your article “Green by Design, or Debacle” by Anne Surchin [Residence, March 26 & 27], I would like to point out the following:
While it is true that energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain a very small amount of mercury—according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about 4 milligrams are sealed inside each bulb—there are, for comparison’s sake, about 25 milligrams of mercury bound up in the watch battery you might wear on your wrist, and as much as 2 grams encapsulated in a home thermostat.
Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use. Still, as Ms. Surchin asserts, when a CFL eventually burns out, or in case of breakage, the bulb must be disposed of properly.
Despite all this, keep in mind that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coal-fired power plants emit 13.6 milligrams of mercury to produce the electricity required to use one incandescent light bulb, compared to 3.3 milligrams for a CFL. So, overall, CFLs reduce the amount of mercury in the environment.
We often receive inquiries on this and similar topics and try to post helpful consumer information on our website’s renewable energy forum (RenewableEnergyLI.org).
I hope that this might “shed some light” on an understandably confusing subject.