I used to think I was making a better world for my grandchildren by using compact fluorescent bulbs. Now I’m not so sure.
It’s not that I doubt the claim that they use a quarter as much energy as regular incandescent light bulbs and last many times longer. Nor is it that I don’t applaud their utility in fighting climate change: The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute says that if everyone in the U.S. alone were to replace traditional bulbs with the corkscrew fluorescent sort it would reduce greenhouse gas as much as taking 30 million cars off the road.
No, one of the things that’s giving me second thoughts is this summer’s advice from Health Canada. The bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury, a cause of birth defects and harm to the nervous system, kidneys and the liver. If I were to paraphrase the ministry’s startling advice, you’d think I was making it up, so I’ll quote extensively.
In the event a bulb breaks: