A while back I had a resource news update, looking at the latest from the sites in the resource link list - it seems better just to highlight different ones, when I notice them.
I mentioned that Howard Brandston had an upcoming article in Mondo magazine.
This is now published:
MERCURY? Thermometers NO! Light bulbs YES!
A plea to the lighting design community from Howard Brandston.
On December 16th 2011, just days before a national ban on the incandescent was to take effect, the United States congress postponed the onset of a law that threatens to alter the very contours of our lives. Starting with a phase-out of the 100-watt bulb in 2012, the Energy Independence and Security Act, signed by George W. Bush in 2007, finishes off the 40-watt lamp by 2014. How do the legislators behind the Act intend to replace Thomas Edison’s time-tested invention? With the squiggly compact fluorescent, which has been touted as a panacea for an ailing planet, even as questions about its energy efficiency and environmental viability abound. The outcry in the U.S. against this proposed ban, however, has been vociferous—loud enough, it seems, to have put at least a momentary halt to legislation that is not dissimilar to bans that are in the process of being enacted all over the world.
In the years leading up to the planned implementation of the Act, American lighting manufacturing giants raced to replace the incandescent light bulb with the compact fluorescent to the tune of 400 million lamps sold each year, sacrificing quality and, ironically, the environment in exchange for what was widely heralded as affordability and energy efficiency—CFLs are said to use up to 75 percent less energy than conventional tungsten bulbs (the figures vary). Meanwhile, compact fluorescents have been flooding landfills around the world, frequently breaking along the way, releasing about 5 milligrams of mercury into the soil, water, and air with every shattered bulb.
A naturally occurring heavy metal, mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes damage to the central nervous system, the endocrine system, the kidneys and other organs. Mercury poisoning can be fatal; exposure to mercury is especially dangerous for fetuses and children. Yet despite the imminent phase out of the incandescent bulb, the lion’s share of municipalities in the United States have failed to implement safe, accessible recycling solutions for the toxic compact fluorescent. Five years after the signing of the Act, cities and towns with curbside recycling services still do not have the facilities to deal with such bulbs, which must be taken to hazardous waste centers, many of which are open to the public a total of one day a month.
And what happens when one of these fragile glass corkscrews breaks within the safety of the home? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends evacuation of the site for the first 15 minutes after the breakage in order to avoid exposure to harmful mercury vapors. After an elaborate initial cleanup (instructions available on the internet are confounding in their contradictions), the room should be aired out, the EPA advises, with all HVAC systems turned off, for several hours. Theories as to the health risks posed by any remaining traces of mercury vary wildly depending on who is doing the talking. Consumers can, for the moment, breathe a huge sigh of relief. They have not yet lost the freedom to decide for themselves what kind of bulbs they are willing to risk bringing into their homes.
Now, at the 11th hour, Congress has postponed the bill—which was planned to go into effect on January 1—until September 2012, giving those in support of the incandescent nine more months to harness the momentum necessary to make their voices heard. Vigilance is key. This small victory must not be seen as a mere momentary roadblock to the boondoggle that has been looming over the U.S. lighting industry and how it is that we illuminate the commercial workplace, as well as the sanctity of our homes, for the past five years. Constituents around the world need to make their opposition to the ban known, in the face of the considerable lobbying power of lamp manufacturers, who, no doubt, will continue to put pressure on Congress, fervently politicking for their interests to be served.
The devastating paradox of the supposedly green solution to the global energy crisis proffered by the compact fluorescent is that the mercury contained within these bulbs is poised to invade our homes even as we are promised a reduction in mercury-laced carbon emissions—a reduction that is negligible at best. It is an energy saving that can easily be accomplished by legislation on any number of measures, including wind and solar power and alternative fuels, higher building standards, and HVAC and water heating systems, to name a few.
And what about other lighting alternatives? High-performance energy-efficient incandescents that meet proposed energy efficiency guidelines are in the works. Halogen lamps are everywhere. But unfortunately, the high-performance bulbs currently available or in the pipeline are no competition for the conventional tungsten lamp when it comes to cost. Which means that if a ban on the incandescent does go into effect, the only affordable option for the vast majority of homes will be the noxious compact fluorescent.
Action must be taken to ensure that the repeal is not simply a postponement. It is imperative that we succeed in averting the impending environmental crisis we are so very close to legislating into being. For if just one gram of mercury will pollute a 2-acre pond, imagine the havoc millions of compact fluorescents tossed into our garbage dumps threatens to wreak on the world at large, let alone the sanitation workers who come in constant direct contact with high volumes of these troublesome bulbs. Allowing so much mercury to invade our homes and workplaces, not to mention our already endangered forests and plains, our rivers and oceans, would be not just foolhardy but downright destructive.
And mercury is not the only problem when it comes to the compact fluorescent. Myriad questions remain regarding the negative impact of CFLs on our health and well-being. The flicker rate of the bulb has improved over time, but the jury is still out on CFLs as a trigger for migraines and, in some cases, epileptic seizures. The long-term effects of electro-magnetic fields and the gaps in the colour spectrum peculiar to CFLs have not yet been adequately studied. In addition, the ultra-violet radiation emitted by CFLs poses dangers to those with light-sensitive diseases such as lupus.
And the list of downsides continues: many existing light fixtures are incompatible with CFLs and will need to be replaced. The fact that the bulbs require a different kind of dimmer than those installed in most homes poses yet another challenge. CFLs boast a longevity equal to 3 to 25 (or 8 to 15, again, the figures vary) times that of the incandescent; but these claims are substantially undercut by the rapid reduction in lifespan that occurs when the lights are switched on and off with any sort of frequency. And then there is the CFL delay: when a compact fluorescent is switched on, it does not light up immediately, but takes up to three minutes to reach full intensity. Component parts fail frequently, due to compromises in quality in exchange for affordability. CFLs are manufactured in China, where there are little or no environmental controls, and safety in the workplace is all but nonexistent. Energy savings produced by the bulbs themselves are offset by the distance they must be shipped and the energy expended to manufacture their plastic packaging, which of course, is environmentally unsound. And despite the fact that the quality of light given off by CFLs has improved in recent years, it remains spectrally deficient, and vastly diminished in comparison with that of the incandescent. Not to mention the negative impact that the incandescent ban would have on the work of lighting designers and industry professionals in an era that is presently rife with restrictions.
But the implications of the elimination of the affordable incandescent go far beyond the blatant health risks posed by the compact fluorescent and its roll call of hindrances listed above. What’s most ominous about the incandescent ban proposed by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is not simply its enforced influx of the compact fluorescent into our homes and workplaces, but the fact that if it does indeed take effect, we will have lost our freedom to choose how we light our lives.
Human beings evolved with and in response to light—sunlight, moonlight, the incandescence of fire. Our physical mechanism, the neuroscience that makes us who we are, is exquisitely attuned to light’s qualities and rhythms. The light that envelops us steers our very existence. To impose limitations on how we choose to illuminate our world carries profound biological implications.
How did we get here? How is it that environmental institutions from the EPA to the Energy Federation to Greenpeace continue to advocate the use of the compact fluorescent despite the overwhelming evidence?
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy.”
—Ernest Benn, British publisher, born in 1875
Our recent predicament is a testament to the hefty lobbying power of a handful of manufacturing giants on Capitol Hill and a barrage of mostly meaningless statistical data. For when one takes a closer look at the bee’s nest of information spun in favour of the ban, one discovers that the “more than 330 million metric tons [of greenhouse gas emissions saved] over the next 30 years” posed in defence of the incandescent ban amounts to .013 percent of energy use over the next three decades. This is a figure that could easily be offset by any one of a number of measures. But the industries behind these measures wield a lobbying muscle that is at least as formidable as that of the lamp manufacturers, if not more so. The community of lighting professionals is only a few thousand strong. The incandescent, then, is an easy target—singled out in the scramble to make our lives more energy efficient, even when the statistics don’t support the argument.
It’s not too late to set the story straight. We have seen that speaking out can make a difference. We have been given a tremendous opportunity, thanks to the postponement of the ban, to spread the word. Now is the time to organise our resources and step up the good fight. We, as a community of lighting professionals, have a voice that can make itself heard: a clear, unified statement issued on behalf of the lighting community will have far-reaching implications. We must do everything we can to invite the general public to get involved, to urge consumers to contact their legislators and make their feelings known regarding this onerous, ill-thought bill—and others like it all over the world. Our freedom to choose the nature and quality of how we illuminate our lives lies in the balance.
biography, commentary, business
As seen, a well known lighting designer with numerous projects, also a guest lecturer, visiting professor, and as noted the Congress choice of expert opinion on lighting issues.
Listen to what the renowned lighting designer says!
The most common political reply, as also happened to him in the Senate Hearings,
is the well-worn "But we are not banning incandescents... energy efficient types like halogens are still allowed".
Howard does point out the cost difference, there are also some light quality and other differences, and significantly they will be "phased out" too on both US and EU legislation specifications (indeed a ban on low-voltage halogens is in the works in the EU too, or should I say "standards that do not allow them to be made" 8-))
The today revised page The Deception behind Banning Light Bulbs,
a copy which follows underneath, complements the above:
I steer away from specific CFL-mercury criticism in that rundown, as that line of argument (however justified) detracts from the purpose there, to highlight how the ban in itself is wrong.
CFLs, like incandescents and other bulbs have their advantages too.
Provided the usage safety conditions are adhered too, there is no need to ban them either(!).
Energy efficiency regulations make no sense for any reason, including to save energy or emissions.
Coal plants were always the main target.
Yet the irony is that - even with supposed energy usage -
the same coal gets burned regardless of whether your light bulb is on or off! (more)
It's a funny world.