April 30, 2007

There's always a hidden cost to "cost-saving" measures

Cost-saving light bulbs? Not quite:

How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent light bulb? About US$4.28 for the bulb and labour unless you break the bulb. Then you, like Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, could be looking at a cost of about US$2,004.28, which doesn't include the costs of frayed nerves and risks to health.

Sound crazy? Perhaps no more than the stampede to ban the incandescent light bulb in favour of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

According to an April 12 article in The Ellsworth American, Bridges had the misfortune of breaking a CFL during installation in her daughter's bedroom: It dropped and shattered on the carpeted floor.

Aware that CFLs contain potentially hazardous substances, Bridges called her local Home Depot for advice. The store told her that the CFL contained mercury and that she should call the Poison Control hotline, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent a specialist to Bridges' house to test for mercury contamination. The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter. The DEP specialist recommended that Bridges call an environmental cleanup firm, which reportedly gave her a "low-ball" estimate of US$2,000 to clean up the room. The room then was sealed off with plastic and Bridges began "gathering finances" to pay for the US$2,000 cleaning. Reportedly, her insurance company wouldn't cover the cleanup costs because mercury is a pollutant.

Um, I'll stick to standard light bulbs, if you please.

(h/t: The Corner.)

UPDATE: See the comments. Story is true, but danger appears overstated.

Posted by Hube at April 30, 2007 04:54 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

This is a very reasonable concern.

Just like fluorscent bulbs that we have been using for decades, these compact fluorescent bulbs must be handled with care; and, they must be recycled, not thrown into the garbage.

Unfortunately, an accident in the home has to be dealt with, and it can be expensive. Repairing your car when involved in an accident can also be expensive, not to forget medical costs as well.

Hube, have you decided to discontinue using your car?

Many daily activities contain inherent risks. We routinely assume these risks, taking the necessary precautions if we are wise, like buckling our seat belts.

Posted by: Perry Hood at April 30, 2007 06:26 PM

Perry -- when there's a safer, and less expensive substitute than the usual car, I'll forgo driving. But in the case of the typical light bulb vs. the CFL, looks like the 'ol standby is still cheaper AND safer.

So, your point about driving was ...??

Posted by: Hube at April 30, 2007 07:22 PM

I've managed to raise 4 kids to adulthood. If I go back and figure out how many light bulbs they have broken just horsing around, knocking over lamps, etc., I suspect my home would be deserving of a superfund cleanup site designation. At this point in my life the whole dwelling would have to be surrounded by a fence and tended to by men in space suits. However, that won't be necessary because I haven't as of yet purchased or accepted one of these bulbs. After reading this you may assume that I never will. Great public service you've performed here, Hube.

Posted by: Al at April 30, 2007 09:52 PM

You guys all know that this is a hoax, right?

Posted by: Mark at May 2, 2007 05:33 PM

Is it, Mark? Got a link for us? I'll sure correct th e record if it indeed is a hoax.

Posted by: Hube at May 2, 2007 05:37 PM

Just saw this:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cfl.asp

Posted by: Paul Smith at May 3, 2007 09:02 AM

A niec example of outright BS deliberately passed through the echo chamber.

The concerns about mercury in fluorescent bulbs have only been in regard to landfills, etc. Only small amounts are in individual bulbs. Not like those big ol' mercury sticks we used to put in our mouths to take our temperature! Not to mention that recent agreements to cap the amount of mercury in bulbs are now in effect as of mid-April. Details, details.

By the way, as for "sticking to" regular bulbs: you spend X amount of hours at work, where there are almost surely fluorescent bulbs with far more mercury than you could put in your home.

Posted by: dan at May 3, 2007 05:24 PM

Hey dan: Read Paul's link, you dope. First, nowhere is the actual story refuted, and the "details" about using CFLs in your HOUSE are indeed much more of a hassle than using regular bulbs.

The actual story appears to be a case where authorities didn't know just what to do.

Oh yeah -- a house containing numerous CFLs is akin to what -- ONE thermometer that's used EVERY ONCE IN A BLUE MOON.

Go back to bitching about Rick Santorum you hypocritical putz.

Posted by: Hube at May 3, 2007 05:36 PM

Ah, how I've missed the abuse and rage disproportionate to the compliments I've paid you over the years.

What's most interesting about this is your failure to see the irony of you - a massive critic of overreaction by environmentalists -- pushing an extremely sketchy, agenda-driven "sky is falling" story from a "newspaper" in a town where like 12 people live.

Why don't you apply to this story the type of critical media analysis you insist upon when stories support your worldview?

Since you think I'm a moonbatty maroon, why not consider the opinion of Glenn Reynolds, a conservative/libertarian for whom you presumably have some modicum of respect:

http://www.instapundit.com/archives2/004578.php

Posted by: dan at May 3, 2007 06:54 PM

dan: Compliments my ass. Only when I consistently pointed out how unfair and ridiculous you always tend to become when things don't go your way.

And maybe you missed this:

Is it, Mark? Got a link for us? I'll sure correct the record if it indeed is a hoax.

Obviously you did. Because YOU saw what YOU wanted to see! And,

1) the story is NOT a hoax,
2) my complete willingness to "set the record straight" completely shreds your initial (and subsequent) comments,
3) even though the story made CFLs out to be more dangerous than they actually are, standard bulbs are STILL a much better bet at present, and
4) Why don't you apply to this story the type of critical media analysis you insist upon when stories support your worldview?

To #4 I say,

1) You don't, so
2) to blast me for apparently not doing so makes you look like the hypocritical putz I said you were, and
3) I'll run the blog however the hell I see fit, and if you don't like it stay the f*** away. It's quite simple, actually.

BTW: Did you post a childish tantrum about Santorum lately?

Posted by: Hube at May 3, 2007 07:18 PM

BTW: I had heard merely about how "terrific" these bulbs were even though they were a bit more expensive -- how they'd just save you bucks over the long haul. I didn't know any of the hassles entailed if someone broke one and the potential dangers, however small. Makes standard bulbs seem not so bad, now.

Posted by: Hube at May 3, 2007 07:26 PM

1) the story is NOT a hoax

Never said it was. I said this whole thing was BS. 'Spose I should have said the following by way of introduction: "This is a classic example of an outlier of an event (overreaction and ignorance by various folks) used to advance an agenda, without any context being given."

even though the story made CFLs out to be more dangerous than they actually are, standard bulbs are STILL a much better bet at present

If that's what your post had said, I wouldn't have objected.

BTW, I still don't quite get how these "hassles" are a more important issue all of a sudden than with standard fluorescents -- the type that have been hanging above the heads of American schoolchildren and workers for however long.

Posted by: dan at May 3, 2007 07:46 PM

I'll run the blog however the hell I see fit, and if you don't like it stay the f*** away. It's quite simple, actually.

No objection there. Ad hominem away.

Posted by: dan at May 3, 2007 07:47 PM

I said this whole thing was BS

Oh gee, what a difference. The fact is that the story was NOT BS. What it was was overblown, and an overreaction by people not completely informed.

And what's the agenda? That those against radical environmentalists used this to their advantage? Perhaps, but that's an assumption YOU made. Folks on the right are already setting the record straight, myself included. Not many environmentalists actually do THAT, now do they, dan? But it's true there are much bigger fish to go after with those loons anyway.

BTW, I still don't quite get how these "hassles" are a more important issue all of a sudden than with standard fluorescents -- the type that have been hanging above the heads of American schoolchildren and workers for however long.

Gee, let's see ... maybe 'cause custodians who know what they're doing change them, and that such lights are actually changed when there are NO children in the class...?? And those long tube-like lights are actually attached at each end so it's not as if they'll just fall out. Contrast that to a home where anyone can change a bulb --- or destroy one accidentally -- including a child.

No objection there.

Won't last long, I bet. Don't care either way.

Ad hominem away.

Always will when uppity holier-than-thou people tell me how to do things on my own blog.

Posted by: Hube at May 3, 2007 08:23 PM