There’s actually very little mercury in a single CFL, only around 5 milligrams. If one breaks, the amount of mercury released isn’t likely to be harmful. At a global scale, CFLs actually prevent mercury from entering the environment. This is because burning fossil fuels to produce energy releases the largest source of mercury, and using CFLs saves energy. The statistic is that 10 milligrams of mercury are emitted to produce the electricity for an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4 milligrams of mercury for a CFL for the same amount of time.
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Actually, incandescent bulbs ultimately result in greater mercury exposure than CFLs because they consume much more power and require more power generation. Since mercury is a byproduct of burning coal, coal-fired power plants are a larger source of mercury pollution than the mercury content in the CFLs.
Although CFLs and fluorescent lamps result in less mercury pollution than incandescents, it is still important to store and transport used lights to a recycling facility in a packaging configuration proven to contain mercury vapor. Only then are these products truly green lighting solutions. Find out more here: http://vaporlok.blogspot.com.
If you recycle your CFL’s, the mercury is extracted from them to prevent release into the environment and it is actually reused in new CFL bulbs. However, if one breaks it is releasing mercury vapor into the atmosphere. Liquid mercury is much more hazardous than vapor, just one drop on your skin can cause deadly mercury poisoning. On the bright (CFL) side, an old mercury thermometer contains 500 milligrams of mercury which is equivalent to the mercury in 125 CFL bulbs.
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