Mercury move attacked
Monday January 10, 2005
Funeral directors reacted angrily yesterday to a government plan to halve the amount of mercury emissions produced by the burning of amalgam teeth fillings, warning it could add up £100 to the cost of a cremation and was unjustifiable. "No scientifically quantifiable study has been done and it will be the bereaved who will have to foot the bill," said Dominic Maguire, a spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors.
Under the scheme, to be presented today after five years of consultations, crematoriums must halve their mercury emissions by 2012. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, each dead body contains an average 2.1 grams of mercury from amalgam fillings. Mercury emissions have been linked to birth defects, kidney disease and multiple sclerosis. Unless action was taken soon, crematoriums would become the single largest mercury polluters in the UK by 2020, Defra said.
Subject: article: Mercury rules designed for safety end up polluting
Mercury rules designed for safety end up polluting
Thursday, April 20, 2006
By John J. Fialka, The Wall Street Journal
CHELSEA, Maine -- One day this winter, John Miville reached under the hood of a battered, 1995 Ford pickup and yanked out a switch. Inside was a bullet-sized capsule that he tossed into a white plastic pail labeled "Hazardous Waste."
Thunk. Mr. Miville, who takes apart cars for an auto-parts dealer, was helping Maine implement one of the nation's toughest mercury-recycling laws. The capsule contained a BB-sized piece of the liquid metal, one of the world's most toxic pollutants. Maine's law is supposed to keep it out of the state's air and waters by pulling it from old cars before they go to the smelter. "I just know it's poison," says Mr. Miville.
What Mr. Miville doesn't know is that it might end up polluting Maine anyway. Unexpectedly, one big reason is the state's recycling law. Instead of being permanently removed from the environment, recycled American mercury frequently travels through a secretive and unregulated chain of processors and brokers that can often end with primitive African, Asian and Latin American gold mines. These operations make up one of the world's biggest markets for mercury. They're also one of the world's biggest sources of mercury pollution.
In the northern Brazil town of Creporizao, miners buy flasks of recycled mercury from stores along the town's dusty street. Later, they use it to extract gold from the gravelly soil. The process sends the metal into the atmosphere where it can orbit the world as many as four times before settling in distant places, such as Maine's seemingly protected lakes. "Certainly that's not where we want to see it end up," says John James, who runs the mercury-recycling program for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection. "It's one thing to get this out of U.S. commerce, but where it ends up is another issue," he says.
A consensus has emerged in recent years -- among business leaders, scientists, and state policy makers -- that mercury is hazardous and requires federal monitoring. Once it leaves the nation or state that regulates it, however, mercury can be traded around the world, sometimes by smugglers, and its toxic footprint doesn't respect national boundaries. As a carefully used liquid metal, mercury is relatively harmless. But it can become a danger if it enters the atmosphere through industrial emissions and falls into lakes and oceans. There, mercury is changed by bacteria into a form that accumulates in plants, then fish, then in humans who eat the fish. Ingested in large enough doses, mercury can impair hearing, vision, balance, speech and muscular control, especially in small children.
Mercury experts disagree about the level at which the metal becomes harmful. There is also continuing debate about how much of mercury found in fish comes from natural sources, such as volcanoes. What's clear is that the biggest man-made source of mercury pollution is power-plant emissions, especially from rapidly industrializing countries such as India and China, which contribute about half the 3,000 tons of mercury that humans send into the atmosphere annually. The Bush administration last year began implementing a program to reduce U.S. emissions by 70 percent over the next two decades.
The No. 2 source, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, is from gold mining in the developing world, which emits 1,000 tons of mercury into the air every year. This mining is done in some 55 countries, mostly developing nations. United Nations researchers say a network of recyclers and brokers in the U.S. and other industrial countries is a key source for much of the mercury used in this process.
Just how much goes from the U.S. to mining countries is unclear because there's no official global accounting of mercury trade. The Interior Department estimates the U.S. exported 278 tons of mercury
in 2004 to countries such as Mexico, Vietnam, Peru and Brazil. William E. Brooks, who tracks mercury trade for the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey, says that likely underestimates the total. Some big American metal mines produce mercury as a byproduct of gold, silver, copper and lead mining. (Mercury and gold are often found in the same places and the process of extracting the gold often releases the mercury, too.) These companies don't report that they subsequently sell the mercury because they don't have to.
Last year, the European Commission moved to ban the export of all mercury to developing countries, starting in 2011, citing its use in gold mining among other environmental hazards. The U.S. is taking more modest steps. The Environmental Protection Agency is crafting a voluntary "Roadmap for Mercury." The plan will call for the federal government to "discuss options" with the states and industry about how a national regulatory program on mercury trade might work. Absent more formal controls out of Washington, Maine and more than 20 other states are adopting their own limits.
One way for a state to make sure its mercury doesn't enter the atmosphere is simply to store it. Maine tried that when it first enacted its law in 2002. The state signed a contract with Mercury Waste Solutions Inc., a Mankato, Minn., company, to store 84 tons from a defunct Maine chlorine plant. The mercury was placed in special stainless-steel containers that were guarded and monitored. But Mercury Waste Solutions became convinced it wasn't safe or prudent to store mercury because of the fear of terrorist attacks, says its chairman, Brad J. Buscher. Mr. Buscher says he sold the mercury to brokers in 2005 after an insurance broker told him it was uninsurable.
Since then, Maine has enforced a recycling program that requires scrap dealers to remove mercury from cars and industrial equipment before metal is sent to the smelter. The long process begins with people like Mr. Miville, who recover the mercury from industrial scrap. The hazardous waste pail at Aable Auto Parts, Mr. Miville's employer, was picked up by Wesco Distribution Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company that collects and consolidates mercury-laden scrap. It removes the sealed buckets from Maine's junkyards. "We don't even open them up," says Jim Baines, a Wesco account representative.
Wesco sells the buckets to an Illinois-based company, Veolia ES Technical Solutions, which begins the purification process. Kevin Shaver, a manager for Veolia, says the company removes the mercury from a variety of industrial scrap collected from state-sponsored programs in Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Arkansas. The mercury is then boiled in a big, closed pot called a retort and is turned into a gas. Then it's condensed back into its natural, liquid-metal form.
Mr. Shaver says his company produces about 20 tons of mercury a year and sells it to D.F. Goldsmith Chemical and Metal Corp., of Evanston, Ill., which continues the purification, bringing the metal to the stage where it meets industry standards for reuse. Companies likely to put mercury in a product these days include electronic- equipment manufacturers and companies that make material for dental fillings. Car makers stopped putting mercury in switches in 2003. Mercury, a good conductor of electricity, was used among other things to operate courtesy lights; tilting the hood or the trunk lid caused a tiny BB of mercury to roll inside the switch, making a connection that turned the light on.
Goldsmith distills it three more times, then pours the mercury into industry standard, gray metal flasks that are roughly the size of large bowling pins. Because mercury is so heavy, they weigh 76 pounds when filled. Once the process of converting the old mercury into a reusable form is completed, there are few rules for monitoring the flasks, and the trail grows murky.
D.F. Goldsmith executives won't say much about where they sell their mercury. Rob Goldsmith, president of the company, says he tries to resell to industrial users he knows in the U.S., but adds that he can't say for sure that some of it doesn't end up in countries such as Brazil. International metals brokers, or traders, scoop up varieties of materials -- not just mercury, but so-called "minor metals" such as antimony, cobalt, and bismuth -- and sell them to markets in the developing world.
"As far as I can tell there are no brokers involved, but there might be" further down the sales chain, says Mr. Goldsmith. "Mercury is mercury. Where it winds up is very difficult to trace." He declined to discuss the business further.
Bruce J. Lawrence, president of Bethlehem Apparatus Co., of Hellertown, Pa., competes with Mr. Goldsmith. He also gets mercury from state recycling programs and says he sells frequently to brokers. One of Mr. Lawrence's most important customers is Harold Masters, managing director of a London-based company called Lambert MetalsInternational Ltd.
Mr. Masters says that after he buys mercury from Mr. Lawrence and other U.S. recyclers, he stores it in warehouses in places like Rotterdam, Holland, and Antwerp, Belgium. Then he says he ships it to customers all over the world, including a fair amount to Brazil, where he has an agent. Mr. Masters wouldn't identify his customers or his agent.
The broker-sold flasks often wind up in warehouses near Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, say industry sources. The Interior Department's Mr. Brooks says other common destinations are Vietnam and Indonesia. In Brazil, mercury importers are required to have a document showing that the product has a guaranteed industrial or medical customer, according to Brazil's Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, a government agency. The rules bar the use of mercury in primitive forms of gold mining,the agency says. WSJ(4/20)Mercury Rules Designed For Safety End Up -2-
According to the agency, more than a third of the mercury is sent to companies that say it will be used to make dental fillings. Marcello M. Veiga, chief advisor to the United Nations Development Programme on mercury, says he recently bought a vial of mercury in a pharmacy in Jacobina, Brazil, a small town near a gold-mining area in the state of Bahia. "There were no questions asked," he says.
In 1994, five years after the Brazilian government imposed the documentation requirement, the Brazilian Institute of Economic and Social Analysis, a nongovernmental, human-rights organization, issued a study concluding that mercury imported for legal purposes "is resold, informally, without any control. It is mostly destined for use in the gold fields." That's just regulated imports. U.N., Brazilian and U.S. government officials believe there's a separate channel of mercury that flows into the Amazon from smugglers who carry it over the border. The same routes are used to smuggle gold out of the country to avoid taxes. According to official estimates, Brazil imported 43 metric tons of mercury last year. Victor Zveibil, an official of Brazil's Ministry of Environment, estimates the Amazon region suffers from pollution that would likely have been produced by 130 tons of mercury a year, triple the amount that's legally imported.
"We have such big borders and so many garimpos (primitive gold miners) that we know our national police cannot exactly control this," says Mr. Zveibil, the ministry's secretary of environmental quality. Brazil is working with police in neighboring countries to find new ways to curb smuggling, he says.
The price of gold has more than doubled in the past five years. As a result, at least 15 million people in the world have turned to small- scale gold mining, a business that was almost dormant 50 years ago. Much of the activity is in developing countries where mining is unregulated and environmental restrictions are nil. In some regions, gold mining is the only source of income. The miners run small-scale operations in the jungles employing the same method for refining gold that's been used for over 2,000 years. The U.N.'s Mr. Veiga says the largest active gold-mining area in the world is the northern jungles of the Amazon, covering Brazil and Venezuela, where thousands of camps mine gravel from streams and pits and extract the gold. The key ingredient is mercury.
The standard process is to pound gold-bearing minerals into dust and then shovel it into a slurry of water that runs over copper plates coated with mercury. Because mercury has a strong attraction to metals, it sticks to the plates and traps the gold particles, forming a paste-like amalgam that is 40 percent mercury and 60 percent gold. The next step is called "roasting the gold" or burning a shovel full of the amalgam, which releases the mercury into the atmosphere and increases the gold content of the remaining mixture. Mr. Veiga, who has seen the process, says it usually comes at the end of the day. Gold miners, often including women and children, "stay around and watch the burning."
To further refine the gold, the process is repeated inside gold-buying shops, which are supposed to use filters to contain the mercury vapor. "None of them seems to work properly," said a study released in 2004 by Brazil's Ministry of Science and Technology. So Mr. Miville's BB, which was initially recycled in Maine, might wind up in a place like Creporizao in northern Brazil. From the air, its tiny, dirt airstrip appears as an orange gash in what looks like the endless, empty green carpet of the Brazilian Amazon. "It may look as though no one is here," says Ruari McKnight, chief executive officer of Serabi Mining PLC, "but there are 100,000 people out there." he adds.
Mr. McKnight says his London-based company mines Brazilian gold using a more elaborate and costly process that doesn't rely on mercury. He estimates that over the past 20 years, primitive gold miners have produced between 200 and 400 tons of gold in the region, mainly by extracting it from soil bordering streams.
People in Creporizao react suspiciously to outsiders who ask questions about mercury. At a gold-mining camp in the jungle, Joel Silva Araujo, 67 years old, spoke over the noise of his hammer mill, a machine driven by a sputtering diesel engine. It pounded gravel into dust. Mr. Araujo complained about the rising price of diesel oil.
Asked about the rising price of mercury, Mr. Araujo said he no longer uses it. "We separate out the gold using gravity," he said improbably. Jean Baptista Bezerra, who runs a gold-buying store in town, said miners now heat the mercury mixture in a closed retort, which means they can use it over again and cut down on the fumes. "People are worried about the price and their health," he said.
Yet two doors down the street, the owner of one of the town's handful of mining-supply stores reached behind his counter and produced a standard, gray, 76-pound mercury flask. He and another store owner buy the flasks and retail the mercury to miners in small vials containing 100 to 200 grams, he explained, speaking in a soft voice. He asked that his name not be used. "This is forbidden," he said, pointing to the flask.
The Ministry of Science and Technology report found that gold-shop workers and miners had dangerously high levels of mercury in their urine. They also found symptoms of mercury poisoning ranging from dizziness, tremors, insomnia and nausea to "sexual dysfunction" and "character alteration."
Brazilian scientists also found high levels of mercury in the soil, plants and fish near gold-mining camps. Farmers in the area often clear pastures of weeds by setting fire to them, which gives the mercury a second chance to travel up into the atmosphere.
James P. Hurley, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin, has spent two decades studying rising mercury levels in remote lakes in the northern U.S., trying to figure how this happens in pristine areas with no industrial pollution. Late last year he visited Brazil and watched gold miners sitting on a hill, torching the mercury amalgam. He now thinks the mining process could be behind what he's observing in the U.S.
"That hill was taller than any smokestack you'll see," says Dr. Hurley. He estimates that an amount of mercury as small as a BB is toxic enough to taint the fish in a U.S. lake.
Posted on Sun, Jul. 30, 2006
Cremation's popularity awakens mercury fears
BAY AREA: Neighbors protest poor regulation of emissions, which can poison the local watershed
By John Geluardi
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
As the popularity of cremation grows in California, communities are increasingly worried about mercury emissions from crematoriums, spurring residents to stage large, emotional protests. Several cities in the Bay Area have joined the fight, most recently Richmond, where more than 150 people packed the City Council Chamber earlier this month in response to a proposal for a facility that would have cremated more than 3,000 bodies a year.
They carried banners that read, "Over my dead body." "We are here to say 'no' to this sneak toxic attack on our community," Henry Clark, a North Richmond resident and executive director of the West County Toxics Coalition, told the council. "We will never accept this crematorium in our community, period." The council quickly and without ceremony rejected a proposal to allow cremation in all the city's zoning districts. So while a rising number of Californians embraces cremation as a funeral ritual, politicians, environmentalists, health officials and local communities are expressing alarm about mercury emissions from amalgam dental fillings and what they say is poor government oversight.
Growth of an industry
The number of cremations in California has grown by 10 percent over the past five years, with 54 percent of the state's dead now being cremated. By 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 65 percent of those who die in California will be cremated. With 122,000 cremations in 2004, California was tops in the country; nationwide, there were just fewer than 700,000 cremations that year. Driving the industry's growth are affordability -- with an average cost of $1,500 per cremation -- relaxed religious restrictions and an influx of immigrants who regard cremation as tradition, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
To cope with the rising rate of cremation in Europe, countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and Norway have enacted strong regulations to reduce mercury emissions. But in the United States, there is still debate about whether there is even a problem. "We're really in the dark ages in this country when it comes to regulating crematoriums," said Michael Bender, the executive director of the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project. "In Britain, they recognize the problem and have taken steps to reduce mercury emissions by 50 percent within the next six years."
There is no need to regulate cremation at all because the environmental impact is so small, said Jack Springer, the Cremation Association's executive director. A 1999 report sponsored by the Cremation Association and the federal Environmental Protection Agency said cremation accounted for just 238 pounds of mercury nationwide. "Cremation emissions are not regulated under the Clean Air Act, because they are under all EPA standards," he said. "You're exposed to more mercury just by walking into a dentist office."
"People are dying with more teeth, not fewer, because of better dental care" he said. "But those teeth are loaded with mercury-laced fillings." Citing a study by a coalition of eastern states and the British government, Bender said the typical corpse contains 3 grams of mercury fillings. That means in California alone, cremations were responsible for 807 pounds of mercury emissions in 2004. In the Bay Area, 24,769 bodies were cremated in 2005, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Using Bender's formula, that equates to 164 pounds of mercury emissions in the nine-county region. To put those numbers in perspective, it takes just 1 gram of mercury in a lake of 27 surface acres to trigger elevated toxic levels in fish, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That means that fish in a body of water the size of the San Pablo Reservoir would likely become contaminated by 32 grams of mercury. Mercury is particularly dangerous to fetuses and children. Exposure can lead to irreversible neurological damage that results in memory loss, attention deficit and other learning disabilities, according to the EPA.
People most commonly ingest mercury by eating fish. The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has issued standing warnings, especially for children and women of childbearing age, to sharply limit consumption of certain fish from San Francisco Bay and 10 reservoirs, including the San Pablo and Lafayette reservoirs.
Although the majority of mercury emissions come from oil refineries, municipal waste incinerators and cement plants, cremation is quickly becoming a major contributor, say environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Baykeeper and Clean Water Action. For example, a crematorium that cremates 3,000 bodies a year would emit an estimated 20 pounds of mercury, using the estimate of 3 grams per corpse. By comparison, the ConocoPhillips Refinery in Rodeo emitted 81 pounds in 2004, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The state's 35 air quality management districts oversee crematoriums. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District evaluates all proposed crematoriums in the nine-county district for potential health impacts from a variety of toxic substances, including mercury. But the district analyzes potential harm within only several hundred feet of crematorium smoke stacks. "We calculate risk for a new facility, and for mercury, the impacts have been low," Air Quality Engineering Manager Scott Lutz said. "Individually and cumulatively, crematorium emissions are insignificant." But mercury emissions affect the watershed, and the cumulative impact from all sources is not effectively regulated by any government agency, said Sjal Choksi, director of the San Francisco chapter of Baykeeper. "The Regional Water Quality Control Board says it's the air districts' responsibility, and the air board is not paying attention," Choksi said. There are signs that the air district is taking mercury emission more seriously. Based on a report by the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the air district has drastically reduced mercury's minimal acceptable harm level from 57.9 to 0.056 pounds annually. Still, there are no regulations that require crematoriums to reduce mercury emissions. One solution is to install "mercury scrubbers" -- expensive devices that remove mercury from smoke stack vapors. Another is to remove amalgam fillings from corpses.
"Mercury scrubbers are very expensive and unnecessary," the Cremation Association's Springer said. "And as far as removing teeth, there are legal complications. In any case, families just won't stand for it."
Meanwhile, the public continues its love-hate relationship with cremation, and the industry is having a hard time finding room to grow. Richmond's recent action was just the latest setback in the area. In 2004, the San Rafael City Council shunted cremation to strictly industrial areas, and San Leandro outright banned cremation anywhere in city limits. And the Alameda County Planning Commission has stalled a proposed 40-acre cemetery and crematorium in Livermore until more information about mercury emissions is gathered. "One of the major challenges across the country is getting a crematorium put anywhere," Springer said.
Reach John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shining a light on fluorescent bulbs
Energy-efficient coils booming, but disposal of mercury poses problems By Alex Johnson Reporter MSNBC updated 7:10 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 19, 2008 Compact fluorescent light bulbs, long touted by environmentalists as a more efficient and longer-lasting alternative to the incandescent bulbs that have lighted homes for more than a century, are running into resistance from waste industry officials and some environmental scientists, who warn that the bulbs’ poisonous innards pose a bigger threat to health and the environment than previously thought.
Fluorescents — the squiggly, coiled bulbs that generate light by heating gases in a glass tube — are generally considered to use more than 50 percent less energy and to last several times longer than incandescent bulbs.
When fluorescent bulbs first hit store shelves several years ago, consumers complained about the loud noise they made, their harsh light, their bluish color, their clunky shape and the long time it took for them to warm up.
Since then, the bulbs — known as CFLs — have been revamped, and strict government guidelines have alleviated most of those problems. But while the bulbs are extremely energy-efficient, one problem hasn’t gone away: All CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause kidney and brain damage.
The amount is tiny — about 5 milligrams, or barely enough to cover the tip of a pen — but that is enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels, Stanford University environmental safety researchers found. Even the latest lamps promoted as “low-mercury” can contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels.
There is no disputing that overall, fluorescent bulbs save energy and reduce pollution in general. An average incandescent bulb lasts about 800 to 1,500 hours; a spiral fluorescent bulb can last as long as 10,000 hours. In just more than a year — since the beginning of 2007 — 9 million fluorescent bulbs have been purchased in California, preventing the release of 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide compared with traditional bulbs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Using them actually reduces overall emissions to the environment, even though they contain minuscule amounts of mercury in themselves,” said Mark Kohorst, senior manager for environment, health and safety for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
Public, agencies ill-informed of risks
As long as the mercury is contained in the bulb, CFLs are perfectly safe. But eventually, any bulbs — even CFLs — break or burn out, and most consumers simply throw them out in the trash, said Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the journal Environmental Research.
“This is an enormous amount of mercury that’s going to enter the waste stream at present with no preparation for it,” she said.
Manufacturers and the EPA say broken CFLs should be handled carefully and recycled to limit dangerous vapors and the spread of mercury dust. But guidelines for how to do that can be difficult to find, as Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, discovered.
“It was just a wiggly bulb that I reached up to change,” Bridges said. “When the bulb hit the floor, it shattered.”
When Bridges began calling around to local government agencies to find out what to do, “I was shocked to see how uninformed literally everyone I spoke to was,” she said. “Even our own poison control operator didn’t know what to tell me.”
The state eventually referred her to a private cleanup firm, which quoted a $2,000 estimate to contain the mercury. After Bridges complained publicly about her predicament, state officials changed their recommendation: Simply throw it in the trash, they said.
Break a bulb? Five steps for cleanup
That was the wrong answer, according to the EPA. It offers a detailed, 11-step procedure you should follow: Air out the room for a quarter of an hour. Wear gloves. Double-bag the refuse. Use duct tape to lift the residue from a carpet. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner, as that will only spread the problem. The next time you vacuum the area, immediately dispose of the vacuum bag.
In general, however, the EPA endorses the use of fluorescent bulbs, citing their energy savings. Silbergeld said that could send mixed signals to confused consumers.
“It’s kind of ironic that on the one hand, the agency is saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’s a very small amount of mercury.’ Then they have a whole page of [instructions] how to handle the situation if you break one,” she said.
Limited options for safe recycling
The disposal problem doesn’t end there. Ideally, broken bulbs and their remains should be recycled at a facility approved to handle fluorescent lamps, but such facilities are not common.
California is one of only seven states — Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin are the others — that ban disposing of fluorescent bulbs as general waste. And yet, qualified recycling facilities are limited to about one per county. In other states, collection of CFLs is conducted only at certain times of the year — twice annually in the District of Columbia, for example, and only once a year in most of Georgia.
In fact, qualified places to recycle CFLs are so few that the largest recycler of of fluorescent bulbs in America is Ikea, the furniture chain.
“I think there’s going to be hundreds of millions of [CFLs] in landfills all over the country,” said Leonard Worth, head of Fluorecycle Inc. of Ingleside, Ill., a certified facility.
Once in a landfill, bulbs are likely to shatter even if they’re packaged properly, said the Solid Waste Association of North America. From there, mercury can leach into soil and groundwater and its vapors can spread through the air, potentially exposing workers to toxic levels of the poison.
Industry working on safer bulbs
Kohorst, of the electrical manufacturers group, acknowledged that disposal was a complex problem. But he said fluorescent bulbs were so energy-efficient that it was worth the time and money needed to make them completely safe.
“These are a great product, and they’re going to continue solving our energy problems, and gradually we’re going to find a solution to their disposal, as well,” Kohorst said.
In the meantime, manufacturers of incandescent bulbs are not going down without a fight.
General Electric Corp., the world’s largest maker of traditional bulbs, said that by 2010, it hoped to have on the market a new high-efficiency incandescent bulb that will be four times as efficient as today’s 125-year-old technology. It said that such bulbs would closely rival fluorescent bulbs for efficiency, with no mercury.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and NBC Universal, which is a division of General Electric.)
However, if the disposal problem is to be solved, speed would appear to be called for. Consumers bought more than 300 million CFLs last year, according to industry figures, but they may be simply trading one problem (low energy-efficiency) for another (hazardous materials by the millions of pounds going right into the earth).
“One lamp, so what? Ten lamps, so what? A million lamps, well that’s something,” said Worth of Fluorecycle.
“A hundred million lamps? Now, that’s a whole different ballgame.”
NBC affiliates KNTV of San Francisco; KPVI of Pocatello, Idaho; WBAL of Baltimore; WLBZ of Bangor, Maine; WMAQ of Chicago; WRC of Washington; and WTLV of Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report. URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23694819/
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