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Would George Will Rather Have Mercury in His Fish?

George Will, in his article “Perils of a Bright Idea” (4/2/09),  criticized the use of compact florescent light( CFL)  bulbs because they contain mercury. He has apparently not thought this through.  Would he rather have mercury in his light bulbs or in his fish?

 At a public forum, Stuart Jolly, a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity said, “ if you break a CFL, mercury will spill out”.  Being curious, I went right home and broke one to see.  I could not find the mercury so I looked up the amount. It is about 4 milligrams per light bulb – an amount less than the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  

 Much of our electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants. Coal contains a trace amount of mercury- but considering that we burn 7 billion tons of coal each year –  50 tons of mercury is emitted into the air each year. The mercury is carried to the ground by rain and much of it ends up in our lakes and streams where it enters the food chain.  Some of it eventually ends up in game fish – even in areas that have no natural mercury sources. If you eat fish every Friday, by the year’s end, you’ll have eaten about four times as much mercury as there is in one CFL bulb.

 CFL’s are about four times as efficient as regular bulbs and last about 10 times as long. I cannot think of a company, school, or public building that does not use fluorescent light bulbs to save energy and avoid maintenance costs. CFL’s for home use are the same technology. Using CFL’s will actually cut the amount of mercury entering the environment by reducing the amount of coal burned.

 The mercury in fish should remind us that there are other concerns besides global warming in the debate on energy policy. We have large coal reserves but burning coal  releases sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and radioactive isotopes of uranium and thorium that all end up in the air or the food chain. Whether you believe the Earth is getting warmer or not, you must agree that eating and breathing these are a bad idea.

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  1. Sentry Says:

    Mr. Moore: Have stock holdings in CFLs ? Sounds like it to me.
    Fact: Over 1BILLION CFLs have been sold w/5mg. mercury per bulb ending up in land-fills w/no EPA regs., because these are disposed of 1 at a time,and estimated ground water polluted thus far is 6 TRILLION GALLONS and counting !
    Where’s YOUR PROOF of mercury from COAL BURNING ending up in ANY FOOD CROPS ?
    All I read from you is CLAIMS.
    You fail to mention another PANDEMIC of ETHYL-MERCURY POISONING,
    FLU VACCINES being pushed by the CDC and the FDA both of who get MILLIONS FOR
    “research” from vaccine producers, can you say conflict of interest ?
    Even a scientist from Johns Hopkins now is slamming FLU SHOTS as a great hoax !
    They are not efective at all in preventing flu outbreaks. And, the damage caused by their additives is REAL and causing diseases by immune suppression.
    As for coal-produced electricity, the French have offered FREE SAFE PLANS to build
    proven safe nuclear power plants which could BYPASS ALL EPA GUIDELINES as these plants have been running safely in France for decades.
    Your concerns are misplaced in referrence to mercury poisoning. Please use common sense and help STOP the LUNACY of injecting mercury poison into our kids !

  2. admin Says:

    I appreciate differing viewpoints, but please do not saddle me with things that are not mine. I do not hold stock in CFL’s and I do not recommend injecting Hg poison into kids. I would like to keep as much mercury out of the environment as possible, and I was trying to point out that Using CFL’s will actually cut the amount of mercury entering the environment by reducing the amount of coal burned. One case is here in Oklahoma where we now have restrictions on eating fish from lakes contaminated by mercury from unregulated coal plants.

    Coal use puts 50 tons, or 50 trillion mg, of mercury into the air each year while we use 2 billion light bulbs which amounts to 1 trillion mg, 50 times less. Many of the bulbs will be recycled, but even if not, it will do less damage in a landfill that being put into the air. My point was that converting to CFL bulbs, will actually decrease the amount of coal burned and the amount of mercury entering the environment.

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