Friday, September 12, 2014

CFL vs incandescent bulbs: The government's version of making things better

It's Friday, so I felt like keeping things a little light today - well, if you can consider the complete lack of common sense by our government officials remotely light! So with that said, speaking of light, I was just thinking about some of the key differences between the expensive, government-pushed Compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb and the ingenious, inexpensive innovation known as the incandescent light bulb. For starters, CFL bulbs are made of glass tubes filled with gas and mercury, whereas incandescent bulbs consist of a filament made of a long, thin piece of tungsten metal. Meanwhile, CFL bulbs are being pushed on consumers, while incandescent bulbs are now banned, thanks to an unfortunate “energy” bill signed in 2007 by President George W. Bush, effectively reducing consumer choice.

But instead of going into the pros and cons of each, I think the main difference between the two bulbs can best be captured in the methods required to clean up a bulb should it ever break. If it ever happens to you, here are clear instructions for cleaning up each type of bulb.

1) How to clean up a broken CFL bulb (this is from the U.S. EPA website):
Before Cleanup…
  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. 
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
          -- stiff paper or cardboard;
          -- sticky tape;
          -- damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
          -- a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During Cleanup…
  • DO NOT VACUUM.  Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.  Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.  Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.  Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.  See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After Cleanup
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors. 
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
  • If you have further questions, please call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

2) How to clean up a broken incandescent bulb:
  • Get out the broom.
  • Sweep it up.
  • Throw it away.

And people trust the government to make our healthcare system more simple? Hmm....

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