We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, January 18. 2011
Now, you could write an angry, passionate letter to your Congresscritter and that might, indeed, have a small impact. But I have a better idea. A tried and true idea used by many of the greatest thinkers and persuaders in history:
One of the reasons the word hideous applies to the Environmental Protection Agency is the way they go so overboard in their 'toxic level' figures. The problem is manyfold.
First, there's the same built-in bias from the scientists testing these things that we see in the global warming industry. Their job isn't to determine if something is safe; they've been instructed to find out how safe it isn't.
And they're certainly not going to risk being wrong and facing legal repercussions, so they're going to multiply any 'fudge factor' by 10 — just to be on the safe side.
Likewise, the administrative arm of the EPA isn't going to put its legal ass on the line, so they're going to reduce the acceptable level by another factor of 10 — just to be on the safe side. After all, as they'll hurriedly tell you, children's lives are at stake.
As a result, whereas 300 parts per million of Ingredient X is perfectly safe for the human body, the official EPA number ends up being something completely ridiculous like 20 parts per million.
One chemical that's been in the news recently is the mercury dust found in fluorescent light bulbs. Numerous experts agree that the minuscule 5 milligrams of mercury dust in a curly bulb poses no danger, whatsoever, to human beings should the bulb break. Haul out the vacuum cleaner, sweep things up, get on with your life.
EPA, meet the petard:
If you would be so kind, please hoist thineself upon one.
That's right. The wise, careful scientists at the EPA have determined that mercury dust is right up there with plutonium on the toxicity chart and what amounts to five grains of pollen is enough to (here's that word) contaminate a body of water the size of a small swimming pool. By this logic, if a crate of curly bulbs ever fell off a cargo ship in Boston, they'd have to close down the Atlantic Ocean.
The article I'm quoting from goes on at length:
It then rambles on about the environmental dangers of mercury, the danger to animals, and every word of it 100% true when it comes to real contamination — and thus not one word of it has anything to do with curly light bulbs.
But, because of the EPA's excessive guidelines on what the toxicity level is for mercury dust, they're literally forced to write such articles. As a result, more people — who are clueless about the subject otherwise — have it drilled into them what a danger curly bulbs pose, and they'll pay a little more attention when that Republican candidate on the 2012 ticket starts talking about repealing the ban on incandescents.
In other words, articles like this should be encouraged.
After all, children's lives are at stake. Just ask anyone.
An exploitative idea on saving the aforementioned children's lives — not to mention our own sanity — is below the fold. If you want to make a stand for incandescent light bulbs, here's an effective way.
I suggest you cobble together something along the following and mail a paper copy to your periodical of choice. Send one to every big-wig's name you can find on their web site. If you're near a library, there are books in the reference section that list out all of the major players in big corporations.
Put it in your own words, make up your own horror stories. Keep it respectful, but don't pull any punches.
To magazines catering to animal lovers:
And if your periodical of choice has just published an article promoting curly bulbs:
Remember, persuasion is a by-the-numbers game. If the magazine editor receives X amount of letters on a subject, he'll pay attention and do something about it. If then more people read about the toxic dangers of curly bulbs, X percent of them will write their Congressperson in protest. If the Congressional office receives X number of vociferous complaints, they'll start paying attention to the issue. When the X figure doubles, and then doubles again, at some point someone at the staff meeting is going to use the delicate phrase "the next election" — and then they'll really start paying attention to it.
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Dr. Merc ... Love those sample letters you included. They are a lot more civil and polite than the ones we would like to write. The Busybody Brigade is in full cry against those of us who would prefer to have benign incandescents illuminating our lives, than harsh compact fluorescents which fade art works, give an ugly light, and interfere with our electronics, like computers, with nasty buzzing sounds -- and who knows what else.
In addition, we need to locate black market suppliers of incandescents as soon as possible, since Congress is going to be so busy correcting the mistakes of the present Administration in almost all areas of our economy that they might not get around to repealing the mandate against incandescents before it severely impacts our supplies of Real Light Bulbs. I suggest that Mexico is probably going to realize that they have a possible thriving market here. And I read on the Internet that China is considering the manufacture of Real Light Bulbs as heating devices, thus evading the restrictions against incandescents.
Maybe we should talk to China's President about this while he is here.
I read some guy in Germany is bypassing the law by selling them as 'heating supplies', so we'll have to expect to see that little loophole plugged up. How about as "vintage novelty items"? "Decorate your room like they did back in the 60's, complete with working incandescent, strobe and black lights!"
Extra novelty bulbs sold separately whispers the brochure.
Personally, I think it'll be repealed if it's passed, if not forestalled in its tracks. I see the above article as a real harbinger. If the mainstream media decides it'd rather not have leukemia on its hands than saving the planet, the curly bulb cause is lost. We'll see.
These are the same misguided bureaucrats who would have us destroy Maine mountains for a few fleeting wisps o' wind power at all costs...
I've gotten into the habit of buying a half dozen 100 watters each time a I go to the store.
I have replaced most of my bulbs with LED's and they come in "dimmable" types (if you want those).
this drops my electric bill to almost nil. most of the bulbs in Times Square are now LED: their extraordiinary long lives mean less labor costs to replace them.
You can also pick if you want "warm" or "cool" light (or colors).
I especially liked replacing my halogen lamps with LED 's in the Kitchen: with halogens, I was roasting under the heat: LED's generate almost no heat.
"and they come in "dimmable" types"
The problem is that they only have a low-med-high range, and what happens when the low is too low and the medium is too high? I have the feeling I'd constantly be running into that. My desk lamps have to be just right, so they're not glare-y and distracting from the monitor, but are still effective for room lighting. If I'm going to watch a movie on the monitor, I turn them down a shade more. I really (really) like that ability.
"this drops my electric bill to almost nil."
You mean "the lighting part of my bill". If you turned on a 100-watt bulb in six rooms and let them burn throughout the evening so every room was bathed in light, that would be about 108 KHW per month. Figuring 10 cents per KHW, that's ten bucks the incandescents would cost you. That means replacement LEDs would cost you around two bucks. So, you're saving six bucks a month.
"I was roasting under the heat"
Yeah, incandescents can be nasty in the summer.
And...in the winter? Where's that much-appreciated heat then?
It's like those people who advocate painting rooftops white. Sure, it'll reflect more heat away from the house during the summer and help knock down the A/C bills, but in the winter the building is going to feel like a stone mausoleum. They'll save a few bucks on electricity during the summer, then burn up twice as much -- literally -- in the winter trying to keep the damn place warm.
Newton was right.
The subject of toxicity reminds me of an article I read recently that the EPA required car emissions to be lower than the normally occurring levels of the pollutants (you have to be careful what you call a "pollutant" now a days!). I don't have independent confirmation of that, but I do remember when emission controls were in their relative infancy, that somebody said that the allowed level of some emissions were less than what occurred when painting a door. I suspect that the truth, if not as bad as alleged, is not much better.
Our tax dollars at work!
Just sweep it up! Here's what the state of Maine recomends. (And to think these bulbs are for our own good...):
What if I accidentally break a fluorescent lamp in my house?
The lamp contains a small amount of mercury, but you can clean this up yourself if you do the following:
• Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and could potentially contaminate the vacuum.
• Keep people and pets away from the breakage area until the cleanup is complete.
• Ventilate the area by opening windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before returning to begin the cleanup. Mercury vapor levels will be lower by then.
• For maximum protection and if you have them, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the sharp glass.
• Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar.1 A glass jar with a good seal works best to contain any mercury vapors inside.2
• Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards to scoop up pieces.
• Pat the area with the sticky side of duct tape, packing tape or masking tape to pick up fine particles. Wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel to pick up even finer particles.
• Put all waste and materials into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup that may have been contaminated with mercury. Label the container as “Universal Waste - broken lamp.”
• Remove the container with the breakage and cleanup materials from your home. This is particularly important if you do not have a glass container.
• Continue ventilating the room for several hours.
• Wash your hands and face.
• Take the glass container with the waste material to a facility that accepts “universal waste” for recycling. To determine where your municipality has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your municipal office or find your town in this listmunicipal collection sites (MS Excel format) (pdf format).
• When a break happens on carpeting, homeowners may consider removing throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women.
• Finally, if the carpet is not removed, open the window to the room during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.
"Mercury vapor levels will be lower by then."
That's a funny coincidence. Just earlier today, sweet old Marianne said, "Doc, your scary post gave me the vapors!". So I can relate.
"homeowners may consider removing throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women."
That's just astoundingly blithe, isn't it? "Sure, go ahead, spend two thousand dollars replacing a large section of your dining room carpet. Don't forget the children!"
"DE-FUND THE E P A! DE-FUND THE E P A! DE-FUND THE-"
Million-man march, anyone?
Now THIS is community organizing I can get behind. Thanks Doc!
Our legislature, in its infinite wisdom, foresaw this problem.
It has required the use of CFLs in one law and banned the disposal of any bulb containing mercury in another law. Both passed by the same legislature in the same session.
FYI: I think a petard is a bomb - not a sword.
As such, I think you should refrain from using such violent and reckless language. Your evil right wing, anti government, speech will surely incite someone to violence. The next time a bomb goes off - I will hold you responsible
Please try to get along and compromise. That is what the country truly wants right now - the polls show it. Lets all just live with the stupid, poisonous, environmentally destructive bulbs in the name of civil discourse.
JG, how about a curly bulb suppository. That'll be a safe, easy means of disposal that won't harm the neighborhood.
Let us play by the Left's rules; they like them, that is good enough for me.
"For tis sport to see the engineer hoist with his own petard." A petard or petar was a small bomb, used in medieval warfare and often used to breach doors. It gets its name from the French "to fart". I suppose a sword style may also have had the name "petard" but it seems unlikely.
Until I read the origin and meaning of the term, I always featured something like a hook or a snare.
I recall seeing all the pics of bombs when doing a Google Search for "petard" but I also saw some swords so I figured it meant both. In looking up the 'hoisted' expression, though, darn, it appears you're right. Gee, the symbolism of sticking one's ass atop a bomb isn't near as nice as getting skewered by a sword. What a bummer. I'll go change the pic & text so future generations won't be confused.
1) Big difference between drinking water and stuff you may absorb through your skin - as if you are likely to touch broken glass.
So no scientific petard.
2) I don't understand why so many Americans are whining about this - aside from the obviously galling nanny-state angle.
We've been using these a long time here in Israel.
They are wonderful.
From name-brand manufacturers (Hyundai or Phillips) they are the equivalent of 5 bucks apiece (20 shekels). They are often on sale, and no-name Korean product is even cheaper.
They are available in bright daylight-white, or a warmer color - none of the mortuary blue cast or flicker/hum of older fluorescents.
Use these in overhead fixtures for a lovely wash of bright day-like light. Use halogens or incandescents in smaller lamps for warmer accent light over the dining table or other places.
Again - legally forbidding incandescents is nanny-state meddling and worthy of protest. But please stop projecting that onto a perfectly good technology.
"I don't understand why so many Americans are whining about this"
It's simple. It's because most Americans are aware that lighting is not the biggest, or even one of the biggest, uses for power and electricity in our homes. Heating and air conditioning are, water heaters are, clothes driers are, stoves and refrigerators are; but lighting is not. There are sensible ways for government to encourage energy conservation (e.g., tax credits for installing a solar water heating system); banning cheap incandescent bulbs for home use is not one of them. That's just grandstanding for the sake of looking like you're earning your salary. It's using your authority to push people around under the cover of showing leadership. It's a cheap trick that lazy thinking legislators use to feel good about themselves.
As for me, I'm not whining, I've taken action. I've stockpiled enough incandescent bulbs of various wattages to last the next 20 years. I use CFLs in my house where they can do the job but choose incandescents where no CFL is suitable, like in my recessed ceiling fixtures. If a CFL stops working (none have so far), it goes in the trash. I'll let the smarty pants legislators worry about the landfill pollution their policy has engendered. If the local authorities start snooping through the trash for violations of rules against disposing CFLs, there are plenty of trash dumpsters around government buildings that are easily accessed when no one is looking.
It's simple. It's because most Americans are aware that lighting is not the biggest, or even one of the biggest, uses for power and electricity
No, that's not it. Most Americans DO NOT know that. Most Americans can't even tell you what energy units are denominated in (Watts, BTUs, Joules) , have no idea how many of those are in a gallon of gasoline, or tell you within 4 orders of magnitude how many the US uses on an annual basis. Heck, I've seen the number a few times and can't remember the scale. Other than it's bigger than a politicians ego.
There are four problems in the US with CFLs, in order of perception:
0) CFLs don't work worth a damn when they get cold. Not just Alaska cold, but San Jose on a "cold" winter (outside) cold. This makes them worthless for outdoor lights unless you put a heater on them. Most people don't realize this yet.
1) The electrical grid in the US was not designed for, was not built for, and doesn't work well with sensitive electronic devices. Crappy power (surges and dips, rough waveforms) is bad for most modern electronics and what is in the base of CFLs? Yeah. That's why you don't get the 1500 years of life they promise you. Again, most people don't understand this, but they understand the bulb burning out rather sooner than it's rated (and hyped) for.
2) The first and second general CFLs had horrid color. I've got a degree in color (well, fine art) and I know it fairly well, and yeah, the early ones SUCKED. Modern ones are not quite incandescent color, but if you're willing to live with them a while they become "ok".
3) They are being rammed down our throats. This has most of us really, really f'ing irked.
I think CFLs are fine in MOST applications. If you make sure you have good power, and you aren't doing color retouching for National Geographic, Playboy then you're gong to be fine.
As for the mercury release--assuming you can get the CFL to last near it's rated life time you actually REDUCE the amount of mercury going into the environment, assuming your electricity comes from coal.
(http://omakiya.org/mrmc/?p=19 and http://www.energyrace.com/commentary/more_on_mercury_coal_and_cfls_updated/ )
If you recycle the CFL before breaking it you prevent even more.
Coal is nasty shit, and the less of it we use the better we all are.
That said, our politicians are f'ing nitwits to simply outlaw a technology (note the morons did the same thing with 2 stroke motors--modern two strokes can meet the current 4 stroke emissions standards in a simpler, lighter, more fuel efficient car) that there are good uses for.
Oh, and LEDs? Apparently some more northern states are finding out that LED traffic lights suck in the cold/wet. Seems that the incandescent bulbs kept the fixtures warm enough that they kept working, whereas some of hte LED units freeze up.
I've had to replace the cfls in the garage door opener about every three months. In cold weather the take what seems forever to "warm up" and give off enough light.
Don't know where to post this link. I guess here is as good a place as any.
Virginia legislators want to rescind the law that allows the Attorney General to investigate fraud in the climate science industry:
For people who claim to have clear science on their side, AGW proponents are amazingly reluctant to put their theory and their evidence under oath or in any direct confrontation.
Their idea of debate appears to be whether the priority is to beggar the industrial world or maintain the beggar status of the Third World.
I'm not a fan of curly bulbs; maybe partially because they are being forced on me. But also: they do not seem to last as long as they claim, they don't seem to give off as much light as they claim, they do not always fit where an incandescent does, none are made in the US, but on the other hand, they are not as dangerous as they claim.
I think there are some places where they are very useful. For example, I have some lamps with shades that are at least 50 years old and because they are not as hot as incandescents, they do not dry out the silk in the shade as quickly. They do last longer than incandescents so in hard to reach places, they come in handy.
I think if the giverment would leave well enough alone, it would be better for everybody.
Damn good post Doc, particularly your attempts to illustrate the miniscule quantities involved in ppm. The worst of it is they are finding fault with contaminants in ppb or even ppt(!), quantities that weren't even measurable a few decades ago and are the mathematical equivalent of zero.
People just don't understand how small these quantities are and how expensive it can be to try and remove that last fraction of a percent.
Re landfills. almost all land fills are designed to shed water and are covered to create dry cells of trash. So throwing a CFL in the trash will not release the mercury into the water. A land fill is the safest method of disposal.
The amount of gasoline used to take a bulb to an approved disposal site is more than the savings of electricty. JPB
Hey, fear not, because although the lowly incandescent has been banned, it hasn't really been banned.
General Purpose lamps have been banned. But in the federal legislation you can still have your:
rough service bulbs,
and tinted bulbs.
In addition, halogen bulbs (in the familiar "A" light bulb shape with a standard edison screw base) are available and meet the efficiency requirements of the law. A halogen lamp is an incandescent, and with choice of dimming can match any quality of light you like, while using less energy and lasting longer.
If you have a lot of silver amalgam in your mouth, in a couple of years you'll swallow the equivalent of eating one of these things.
These fillings are outlawed in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Yes, but aren't swallowing it and inhaling it into the lungs very different in the way the contaminant is absorbed into the body?
yes and no. In both cases it ends up in the bloodstream.
With the dental amalgam, it's released very slowly over a period of many years, the body can handle that (it's still banned in the EU because of a blanket ban on anything containing mercury in consumer products except (for now, read below) CFLs).
With mercury vapour, the absorption is through the lungs which is more effective. It's also a higher dose per hour.
And despite that, the amount you'd be exposed to from a broken CFL is miniscule. Just swipe up the debris with a broom and brush, and put it in the trash (or, if you're going to be a good green citizen, deposit it at the local recycling center's "chemical waste disposal unit").
I'd be more worried about shards of glass remaining in that carpet which could work their way into bare feet or hands than about the few micrograms of mercury vapour.
Actually, for some people, their body can't handle the miniscule amount of mercury released by amalgam. And can't handle the miniscule amount of mercury they would inhale from a broken curly bulb. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about, I was sick for two years after I got my amalgam fillings removed, and had to work like a dog to get my health back.
Mercury standards based on what the 'norm' in a population can withstand are not good enough. Us poor sensitive people on the end of the bell curve need to be protected too!
Americans are whining because of bad experiences with the lamps.
In Europe I had been pleased with the Ikea CFLs, in the US the ones I got suck. In Europe I had been pleased with the Philips CFLs, in the US the ones I got suck.
A local store had decent prices on one premium brand, and the 14-watt lamp I purchased was really good, so I went back and stocked up on the multipacks of the 11, 14, and 26 watt versions. The dimmer and brighter bulbs of the same brand sucked, and the 14W bulbs from the multipack were poorer light than the 14W bulb I had purchased singly. There is no way to know if the bulb you purchase today will be acceptable or not.
I've had outdoor lights that wouldn't start in cold. I've ripped out photocell switches on the theory that leaving a CFL on all day is less energy than operating an incandescent from dusk to bedtime, and the CFL won't work on the photocell switch.
I've had to retrofit mechanical light switches in place of dimmers throughout my house. Use of even dimmable CFLs on the "wrong sort" of dimmer is a fire hazard. According to the town building department I'm not allowed to do this work myself -- they make the UK part "P" rules look almost sane.
The sad thing is, this profusion of dimmer and electronic switching was a response to the last call to conserve, and now they are a home-infrastructure barrier to adoption of the latest edict. Some poor previous resident of this house hired an electrician to put in expensive dimmers that are now obsoleted by the lightbulb ban, and I'm supposed to pay an electrician to remove them and put mechanical switches or MORE expensive dimmers back.
Yes, I've found that the bulbs have gotten better, but the trouble in the US at the moment is that there is just no consistency. I've got a closet shelf full of the things that I can't use, because they have some problem with flicker, color, or startup time, yet I can't return them because they are not "defective", as the store managers cannot perceive the flicker or acoustical noise that is painfully obvious to me.
Hey, I even managed to find one that works well in my refrigerator -- but as an early adopter and enthusiastic user of this technology, I can assure you that in the USA at the present time, the CFL technology as it is sold here is not "ready for prime time". In terms of life cycle carbon I'm currently in net deficit with my shelf full of ghastly bulbs.
A far more likely outcome is not that the ban on incandescents will be lifted, but that CFLs and anything else containing any mercury at all will be banned as well.
That's the way the EU is going, by design.
The idea is to push people into buying expensive LED lamps (which of course also contain heavy metals to some degree, so they're bound to end up banned as well eventually) costing upwards of 20 Euro each to replace incandescents costing maye 20 cents.
Of course when you look at who stands to benefit, it's German and French companies holding patents on those devices...
Individuals vary in their sensitivity to color spectrum and flicker. They also vary in their willingness to spend for capital costs and for operating costs.
So why does the government decide for EVERYONE?
This is just a case of crony capitalism exploiting do-gooder environmentalists.
Also "10 cents a kilowatt-hour"???? What a deal!
Here in California my marginal rate is almost 25 cents a kW-hr. Of course, our two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon are costing us 2.5 cents at the busbar so somehow there's a 1000% markup.
Enter the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Robert Merton defined this in a paper (1936) titled: "The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action".
Merton, being the first of the so-called "systems" analysts when it came to sociology, developed an early model for Chaos Theory in which small, apparently insignificant changes create far-reaching effects (e.g., the "butterfly effect").
His rules regarding Unintended Consequences are elegantly simple in describing this effect on events. Quoting from Wikipedia:
"1. Ignorance (It is impossible to anticipate everything, thereby leading to incomplete analysis)
2. Error (Incorrect analysis of the problem or following habits that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation)
3. Immediate interest, which may override long-term interests
4. Basic values may require or prohibit certain actions even if the long-term result might be unfavorable (these long-term consequences may eventually cause changes in basic values)
5. Self-defeating prophecy (Fear of some consequence drives people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is unanticipated.)"
Or to put it another way "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time to have maximum negative impact". :>)
Merton wrote often about the first three of his principles for Unintended Consequences as being the most important. CFLs are a classic case involving all three of the first principles - Ignorance in that while the large numbers of power usage (cumulative effect) are impressive, the micro effect (on those using them vs incandescents) is minor to almost non-existent thus leading to discontent about their value. Error by "solving" one problem, the system creates a whole different set of problems completely and entirely at odds with the original intended purpose. Immediate Interest in which the companies developing CFL and LED lighting need to maintain employment, profitability and most of all, government approval sacrificing the simpler technology for the more complex.
Unstated in all this, but strongly implied is that the more complex the system, the easier it will fail by the weight of conflicting and cross purposes. Put another way, the more complex the system, the easier it is to break.
This complexity is created by well meaning, but incompetent "deciders" who design system trying to take into account all aspects of any particular cause or problem, but failing to understand the system they are trying to "fix". The CFL mercury issue is the perfect example - by creating a fix to one problem, four additional problems appear as a result.
The natural tendency of the deciders is to ignore the created problems as minor or of no consequence regardless of their future impact. Thus the system sets itself up for further complexity which will create more and bigger problems as the effort to fix the created problems becomes apparent.
A never ending cycle.
Comments about the effects of diluting mercury spills indicate the absolute answer to the problem.
In a politically correct solution to a scientific problem, we should continue to dilute any spills until such dilution indicates no evidence of mercury.
We could then sell the end product as a homeopathic cure for mercury poisoning!