CFL Bulbs, How Toxic Are They?

The CFL Bulb

Are the CFL bulbs here to stay?

If you’re in love with your old style incandescent light bulbs, you may want to stock up on your supply while they last. We could see incandescent light bulbs taken off shelves as early as 2012 if this bill passes.

The CFL bulbs are suppose to have a positive effect on the environment, preventing less mercury and greenhouse gas emissions; however they are very difficult to recycle and the bulbs themselves contain mercury in them which has stirred up much controversy. Mercury is a neurotoxin which is unsafe particularly to children. Wendy Reed, manager of the EPA’s Energy Star Program stated back in 2007 that even though CFL bulbs contain mercury, using them contributes less mercury to the environment. She explained that this is so because CFL bulbs use less electricity, and big power plants are the biggest mercury emission contributors.

Whatever you do, don’t break a CFL bulb!

What happens when these bulbs run out or even worse- break! Most drive by recycling programs won’t pick them up and are illegal in most States to throw in the trash, which most do any way, and if a CFL bulb happens to break, you now have exposed neurotoxins in your home. Removal of this hazardous material can be very costly as some have shared spending close to $3,000.00 to have this mess cleaned up. Many people do want to recycle but when there is no easy way of recycling CFL light bulbs the majority will simply throw them in the trash. This then gets tossed into a garbage truck and will most likely break. When it arrives to the dump or transfer station, sanitation workers and environment are now exposed to the mercury. So are these CFL bulbs really improving the environment and are they putting us at even greater health risk?

CFL bulbs use less electricity, but are they worth it?

The CFL light bulb is said use less electricity, have a longer lifespan, save you money and emit fewer toxins to the earth, however is it worth the health risk and trouble of properly disposing of these bulbs, and should the government decide which light bulb is for you to put in your home? Many have claimed that CFL bulbs do not last as long as they say they will, and other health complaints are starting to come to the surface such as increased migraines to name one of many others linked to electrical pollutions which is said that these CFL bulb are big contributors to “dirty electricity”.

What do you think are CFL bulbs a good idea or not, should govt. have a say in this? Fill out the poll below and leave a comment at the end of this page, I am curious to know what others think about these CFL bulbs, and if we should do away completely with the traditional incandescent light bulb?

CFL Bulb Poll

Do you think CFL bulbs should replace all incandescent light bulbs?

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Do you think govt. should determine which light bulb you can use in your home?

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Where you aware of difficulty of recycling these bulbs as well as health concerns and intense clean ups if one is to break inside your home?

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Comments 15 comments

cheapsk8chick profile image

cheapsk8chick 6 years ago

Great hub! These are things I've never thought about since my husband's work recycles CFLs. I will certainly be careful when handling them from now on. I really like them better than the old incandescent bulbs, though. I love the "soft" ones around the house and the bright ones in the bath.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

cheapsk8chick, I kinda like the CFL bulb also but was shocked when I found out that the govt. wants to make them mandatory and that they have mercury in them making clean ups a very intense procedure.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

I wondered if the Mercury in these light bulbs wasn't going to be a problem, but I haven't thought about the disposable aspect. Your hub was very informative and I think they are a ban the light bulbs.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

I never thought of the disposal aspect of CFL bulbs either until just recently reading about it. I was very curious to see what others take on this is, and if aware as well. Thanks for commenting Pamela.

Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Wow, I am so creaped out, every bulb in my house is these bulbs, OMG this is so freaky, thank you for this very awesome hub, I am rating you way up, I am going to twitter this, add to my blog, and scream this to the world. Love & peace darski

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks Darlene, it is kinda creepy and too bad as well, I have read that the CFL bulb does use less electric, I think the LED bulb will be much better and hope that the price on them will go down in the near future.

Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

It's still creapy and the reason for me is as a low income senior, we were give boxes of these to remove our old light bulbs to replace with these. They gave them to us for free, I thought they were trying to help the poor, now I think its you sooooooooooo much my dearest friend....

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks again Darlene, Just make sure you don't break any of them and to find a place that properly recycles CFL bulbs if or when you do decide to replace them.

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very informative, my friend. I use CFL bulbs in my home. I can't deny that the first time I put this lamp, it looks so bright than my old lamp. I never knew that this lamp contain mercury. Thanks for share this information. I'll care more about this. You can visit my latest hub about "Dangerous Things in Daily Life". I thought my latest hub related with this hub. Vote up. God bless you!


rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks Prasetio30 I can certainly see how CFL bulbs can relate to your hub on "Dangerous Things in Daily Life", I am heading over to your site now to give it a read. Thanks for stopping by my friend, God Bless!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I am an environmental conservationist, but I'm also a rational, thinking person. Or, at least that's what I like to lead myself to believe. That said, I think the new light bulbs DO come at a price. Like most things along these lines, there is ALWAYS a trade-off, and unfortunatley that trade usually gets missed by the masses being blinded by good intentions. It's like the argument FOR electric cars, for example. People fail to see beyond the rhetoric, and realize that much our electricity is produced by coal, and natural gas. Coal is very damaging to the environment, and natural gas, while in plentiful supply, is still a pollutant, and is a non-renweable resource as well. The alternative SOUNDS good. Just plug in your car and get to point B, and the world is saved. Right? Wrong. The same applies to the CFL light bulbs. There's a trade-off in REDUCING electricity in this case which reduces pollution from coal and natural gas, but puts other harmful substances into the just the right position to get into the wrong places. How many CFLs will be simply thrown away? I'd guess better than half of them. And when they wind up in our landfills, that mercury WILL find it's way into the aquifers and ground waters of the world. Some of it will find its way in our lakes as well. It's not a good thing in the grander scheme, and I think we're going to have to be more creative going forward in determining real solutions to our need for power, and the things that use it.

Excellent and thought provoking hub. Might I only add that I AM using CFLs, BUT I am also using recycling center locations to get rid of them (whenever they burn out, which they haven't yet).

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

Springboard, very well said, I agree, that we will need to be more creative in our power solutions going forward.

I think the CFL light bulb is great, in the fact that they use less electricity and last longer, its the recycling part and the what if they break in my home part that alarmed me, and o yeah, that the govt. is trying to make it so that these are the only bulbs for me to use.

I would like to learn more about the led bulbs, thinking about researching them next.

Thanks for stopping by and giving this hub a read, I appreciate your comment.

katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

Oh my this breaks my heart, reduce resuse recycle. What's point if we can't discard of the end bulb safely. I tell you can anyone say half as@? Please Really As If. I'm with you the government needs to earn their paycheck and do something about global warming. We can't get a new planet.

All this snow (moisture) is proof there is global warming, the more melting creates more moisture in the air hence all the unusual snow in places where there is normally not.

Oh my sorry, I got started. Great hub on toxic bulbs and how toxic are they! :) Katie

Brad Buscher 6 years ago

CFLs do save energy and are considered more environmentally friendly than other bulbs, but they also contain small amounts of mercury. As this article states, it is important for consumers to realize that CFLs and fluorescent bulbs require special handling and disposal. Like all mercury-containing fluorescent lights, CFLs should be properly stored, transported and recycled to prevent these fragile bulbs from breaking and emitting hazardous mercury vapor. They cannot be thrown away in the trash, but should be taken to a recycling center or disposed of by using a proven recycling box. However, taking them to a recycling center may not always be the most efficient solution. Consumers can use a recycling box to ship bulbs instead. If consumers choose this option, it is important to select a packaging configuration that effectively contains mercury vapor. A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota tested the effectiveness of various packages in containing mercury vapor emitted from broken fluorescent lamps. The study found that many packages do not sufficiently contain mercury vapor, such as single-layer cardboard boxes (representing the original manufacturer’s box or container) as well as single layer boxes with a sealed plastic bag. Just one configuration—consisting of a zip-closure plastic-foil laminate bag layered between two cardboard boxes—minimized exposure levels below acceptable occupational limits, as defined by state and federal regulations and guidelines. Find out more about this proven packaging method at

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY Author

Thanks Brad for sharing your knowledge on how to properly dispose of these CFL light bulbs. I checked out your site,and yes VaporLok products appear to be an outstanding source for safely packageing mercury containing materials. Thanks so much for commenting and hope many follow this link to learn more about Vaporlok.

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