Mercury pollution

Serendipity: two articles in the last couple of days mentioning mercury caught our eagle eye.

The first had to do with those new curvy light bulbs. You know the ones we are supposed to use to reduce our sooty footprints.

The federal government’s plan to phase out incandescent light bulbs isn’t such a bright idea, according to Canadians who wrote to the federal Environment Department.

Environmentalists think the plan to ban the energy-sucking incandescent bulbs by 2012 makes perfect sense. [they would]

But in 33 pages of feedback on the plan from Canadians to the federal government, people were almost unanimous in panning the initiative. They didn’t like being forced to make the change, argued the new bulbs wouldn’t fit their lamp shades, worried about more mercury being released into the environment, and said they had major health concerns. [link to source]

We don’t really care for them either. We’ve used them thinking they would save energy but you know what? They don’t last half as long as they say they do and with the up front cost well we haven’t done the math but we think energy prices would have to go a lot higher before we’d get our money back. Anyway the article goes on to say –

In the feedback, a resident of Wetaskiwin, Alta., wrote: “Forcing citizens to purchase a particular type of product is not the way to go. I believe the government will make a lot of people angry with this legislation.”

We agree. Why force people? If it is such a good idea one shouldn’t need a mandate, convince us. Other people wouldn’t mind being forced, it seems, if it WERE a good idea but they don’t think it is.

Others wrote in to say that energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), which will replace incandescent bulbs, contain mercury, and merely swapping one environmental problem for another.

“Should we be paying Russian roulette with mercury-filled light bulbs in our home?” asked one writer. [link to source]

We haven’t checked lately but the last time we bought some they didn’t come with careful instructions on how to clean up after you break one. And then when they blow what do you do with them? They shouldn’t go in your normal recycle bin, too easy to bust one. Our latest Valley Waste Calendar terms them hazardous waste on a par with pool chemicals and pesticides, you have to take them to a Management Centre.

Home Depot and Ikea already have recycling programs for the CFLs, and Stewart said the government should consider making all retailers recycle those bulbs to keep mercury out of the environment. Many municipalities will also take them back as part of their hazardous waste programs.

This is where this article intersects with one we saw today in the CH

Thirty per cent of Canadian dentists missed a voluntary 2007 target to better control how they release mercury into the environment, but the dentists insist they’re making good progress in cleaning up their act, even though they say they can’t stop using the toxic substance.

Environmentalists, however, say the lack of any real standards is a major concern since low exposure to mercury can lead to learning disabilities in children, while more significant exposure can cause neurological damage or even death in severe cases. …Environmentalists say it’s no surprise that the target was missed by so many dentists since it was voluntary, and carried no penalty for non-compliance. “My view is you need to have a stronger system, any dentist that is not using proper approaches, one thing to do it is to fine them . . . it’s theoretically possible under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,” said Ken Ogilvie, executive director of Pollution Probe. …

Mercury that’s released into the environment can be absorbed in fish and wildlife and then transferred to humans when they eat those creatures, said Ogilvie. “It doesn’t go away, it doesn’t biodegrade in the environment the way an organic pollutant might, so you do want to limit mercury as tight as possible,” he said.

Let’s repeat that -“You do want to limit mercury as tight as possible” Isn’t it odd that environmentalists on one hand want to limit mercury and want dentists to reduce their use of it but then on the other hand they support forcing people to introduce a mercury containing product in millions of homes. Nutty.


2 responses to “Mercury pollution

  1. well who knew? I blame the Bush administration – they didn’t care about the environment at all, totally hands-off any responsibility for teaching or advising the public of any dangers of any product or industry. They denied global warming, saying it was too expensive for businesses to change their procedures. Remember the coal miners who were trapped in a cave-in for days, and never were rescued because there was no way to get to them? Somewhere in TN or KY or SC, I forget where. Turned out the mining company had been cited many times for safety and environmental issues, but the EPA had been gutted by the Bush admin, and had no teeth to pursue enforcement of the law, and those miners died because the busines had to make money and needn’t protect its workers. Same thing with everything else – there were more deaths and illnesses during Bush’s 8 years due to non-compliance of public safety laws and non-enforcement by the various federal agencies responsible for them – the FDA, EPA, etc. All those agencies put in place to inform and enforce were unable to perform, and many people became ill or died during Bush’s f**k*** 8 yrs. You can tell I really don’t like Bush. Hopefully under Obama these agencies will become stronger and information on simple things like light bulbs, which turn out not to be so simple after all, will be forthcoming and customers will be able to make better informed decisions.

    • In the interest of accuracy – This post of ours on mercury pollution was written in March 2008 and the warning about bulb clean up came from the US EPA. This was in the Bush administration as Obama didn’t take office until Jan. 2009.

      Do you remember Westray? Can we blame Bush for Westray? We think there is a saying somewhere that is apt. Something about a mote and a beam. Did you read our post here? It might surprise. Don’t neglect to follow the last link referring to Al Gore’s carbon footprint.