I did it. I took the bait. I compromised my beliefs. I'm guilty... Are you?
It was bound to happen. After years of researching various eco-friendly measures I overlooked something important. My own intuition. In a recent post on CFL bulbs, I convinced myself that they were safe based on several findings from 2 highly respected resources: the EPA and National Geographic. So, it's not like I jumped on snopes.com and carelessly posted my blog message. I found 2 reputable sources which had similar answers that seemed to refute my intuition, and that was that. Perhaps I unconsciously wanted to make myself feel better about placing my daughter in a hazardous situation. Perhaps I wanted to protect my ego after blindly spending money on something. Whatever the reason, I put my intuition aside, ignoring my gut. Never again.
Here is the truth: I don't like florescent light. Period. I never have. The light quality stinks - it's too sterile, unwelcoming and piercing. I don't like that they are non-dimming. They take too long to "warm up" and the flickering sets off my migraine. I don't like the buzzing sound they make. Not to mention they almost never fit in the lamp I need them to fit in and their wattage conversion is annoying. THERE! I said it. I think CFL bulbs suck. But now, I have a greater reason to reject them.
Now, I thought I could convince myself that I was wrong about them. In those moments Monday morning when I thought my CFL bulb might break, there was real fear. Fear of what might happen if my sensitive 2 year old was exposed to mercury. What regression might she have on all the progress we'd made in her speech. Yes, it's a small-ish amount of mercury. But what amount is safe? The answer is none. NO amount of mercury is safe. It is one of the most toxic elements on Earth. I feel duped. Read on toxin-free warriors. Learn what I learned.
There are several types of mercury. There is organic mercury, which is found in fish & seafood, inorganic mercury salts and elemental mercury, which is found in all non-organic items like thermometers, light bulbs and smoke from coal burning. It's the elemental mercury that we are talking about, though the effects on the body are similar for all types of mercury exposure. It can make people ill by emitting radiation that causes migraines, impairment of vision, speech, hearing and walking, sensation disturbances (pins & needles feeling), dizziness, nausea, confusion, fatigue, skin irritations, lack of coordination and motor movements, muscle weakness, mood swings, memory loss and mental disturbances (depression & irritability), to name a few. It's also speculated that those with neurological disorders affecting the nervous system like multiple sclerosis and lupus have a heightened sensitivity to the effects of mercury.
Compact Florescent Light bulbs have some benefits. Sure, they use less energy. Great. The mercury is a problem, but is that all? Well, they are only made in China also. Not to mention the hoops you have to jump through just to light your house. If you touch the glass bulb directly, the efficiency can be compromised. If you break it, you could have a toxic hazard on your hands. What's worse: what if it's broken or cracked but doesn't shatter - how do you know if the bulb is compromised? I'll bet Edison is rolling in his grave. I offer this photo of what is needed to clean up a broken bulb. Even a leaky battery doesn't require this much haz-mat material!
Above all things green and eco-friendly, is a life of low-toxicity. We keep wondering what is wrong with our kids - all these diseases that can't be explained. So why on this earth would be invite another toxin into our lives? Why introduce one hazard while trying to cure another? Haven't we learned our lesson yet? Mandated CFL use is short-sighted. Without humankind, there is no environment to be friendly to. So low-toxicity and self preservation is at the forefront of being green. Rebecca Ferguson of Regarding Caroline said it best: "There are SO many other things [the EPA] could clean up in this environment that don't also cause potential harm on the flip side. Sometimes you have to put your kids first. Even if that (rarely) means the environment second." Right on Rebecca. See also what Senator Ted Poe of Texas had to say about it:
Bravo, Mr. Poe! I couldn't agree more.
Alternate options? They're getting better.
CFL bulbs are not the fit-it-all answer. But with Congress mandating high-efficiency bulbs in 2012, what's a girl to do to get some non-toxic light around here?
LED lights are a great option. One drawback to using LED light is that if you look directly into the light, you can cause retinal damage. Oookay, well this seems like common sense to me. The sun is the most natural light there is and you aren't supposed to look directly at it either. So take caution people. The second issue is the price. So, much like organic food and clothing, something that's better for you is more expensive. SHOCKER! I suspect that as demand increases, prices will fall as with other electric devices. In the meantime, here is a website I found that has a pretty decent sale. I plan to pick some up and give it a whirl. What's the worst that could happen? The next time McKenna follows me around hurling light bulbs, we won't get poisoned if one breaks. Done and done.
Part of growing is making mistakes. I like to turn my mistakes into learning experiences. So as I continue to learn more, I invite you to do the same. Part of the problem with trends is that people jump on the bandwagon before understanding the risks and assume an end that justifies the means. I disagree. I don't have all the answers - and I'm not afraid to say so. But what I can offer is this: do your research & educate yourself. Don't settle for an answer that your gut tells you is wrong.
Oh, and eat your vegetables.