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The true cost of CFL’s

9:40 PM Posted by Aaron kinar No comments
Say Goodbye to the 60-Watt Bulb

Now most of you probably have social lives and things to get on with, so you may not be aware that as of September the 1st, the production and commercial distribution of 60-Watt light-bulbs throughout the EU will cease – Astonishing news, I know!

The idea of a ban was first bandied around during the early 90’s, but legislation regarding energy efficiency and the transformation to using CFL’s only became EU policy in 2007/2008. Since then a step-by-step process starting with 100-Watt bulbs and frosted bulbs has been enacted by the EU, with the final step of the plan being the removal of the common 60-Watt bulb. The idea of the scheme was to drive energy efficiency and help households reduce their annual gas and electricity bills.

However, in recent years a number of prominent scientists and environmentalists have raised concerns over whether CFL’s are actually more energy efficient compared to 60-Watt bulbs. The straightforward analysis of electricity consumption would tend to suggest yes; studies by the UK electricity and gas giant npower indicate that one CFL could end up saving the average household up to £100 over the life of a bulb, but recent studies conducted in Denmark suggest that the carbon footprint of a CFL is much, much higher than ordinary light-bulbs.

What are the real cost of CFL’s?

According to the International Association for Energy-Efficient Lighting it takes 1.8Kwh of electricity to assemble a CFL, compared to just 0.11Kwh to create a normal bulb. In addition to this CFL bulbs are heavier and more dangerous to handle, increasing costs to packaging and shipping. CFL’s also pose additional environmental hazards, as each bulb contains sources of mercury which can accumulate in water sources and food chains after the bulb’s disposal.

The environmental factors surrounding the construction of light-bulbs is even more distressing when you consider that most CFL’s and LED’s now contain precious rare-earths which can only be found in remote locations. According to trade statistics, China controls 97% of the world’s rare-earth market, many of which are used to create modern lighting. Ina recent report printed by The Times, medical inspectors discovered that “in Jinzhou, in central China, 121 out of 123 employees had excessive mercury levels” and “35% of workers (in a fluorescent light-bulb factory) suffered mercury poisoning, and industrial discharge containing the toxin went straight into the water supply.”

With such a high cost in both human and environmental factors the question of whether or not CFL’s are more energy efficient, compared to alternatives, must now be asked by governments of the developing world. Thorough investigation into the full cost of CFL’s must now be conducted, otherwise we risk doing more harm to the environment than we intended. To ensure the modern world’s quest for carbon emission reductions, it now appears that we have jumped straight down the barrel of a gun, and as always, our good intentions can often create perilous and long reaching side-effects.

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