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COMMENTARY · 7th June 2011
Merv Ritchie
Dear Mr Minister,

Yesterday, June 6, 2011, you, as BC’s Minister of Energy and Mines, released an opinion piece talking about CFL’s Compact Fluorescent Lights. In your introduction you proudly addressed the policy of the BC Government to ban the sale of the incandescent bulbs and the promotion of CFL’s.

You stated; ”There is a wide range of lighting options that families can choose from on their store shelves - CFLs are not their only choice. If you don't want a CFL bulb, why not try a halogen bulb? These bulbs meet the new efficiency standards and contain zero mercury.

This initial statement is difficult to fathom a Minister making. What “wide range of options” is there, Mr. Minister? If you deny the availability of the standard incandescent it would appear there are only the two left. At the end of that statement you refer to the mercury issue, which almost all intelligent people have come to recognize as a hazard. But then you go on to downplay the amount of mercury contained within the CFL bulbs. "The average mercury content in a CFL bulb is about three milligrams - roughly the amount it would take to cover the tip of a ball-point pen."

Wow, that sounds so little! Do you believe you are you talking to imbeciles who didn’t get an education. A less generous person would claim this is exactly why the BC Government keeps cutting funds to education, so the population will believe such thoughtless statements.

Scientific studies are done on exposure to vaporized mercury at levels of 0.008 to 0.085 milligrams and refer to symptoms including tremors, emotional changes, insomnia, neuromuscular changes (twitching etc.), headaches, disturbances in sensations, performance deficits on tests of cognitive function and more.

Lets see Mr. Minister, can we understand math as well as science? That 3 milligrams you refer to in the CFL's being almost forced on the population of BC, is an amount between 35 and 375 times higher the exposure used to determine the above health hazards. It all depends on the exposure and the area the mercury vapor is confined to. Break the glass of the CFL in your child’s 8 by 10 bedroom and the exposure is very high and confined.

But you didn’t mention this in your op ed. You stated, “When it comes to the health concerns about CFL bulbs, Health Canada has studied them and confirmed they are safe for household use and are not hazardous to operate.” Of course they are safe to operate, they are just not safe to break.

But of course you know the truth or you wouldn’t have included the statement, "the federal government introduced new product regulations that will limit mercury content in CFLs and other products. This means that all CFLs will contain even less mercury than they have now.”

All of this is just absurd. Attempting to justify the BC Governments foolhardy decision to promote a product almost exclusively made in China, a country known for its almost non existent health or environmental standards, by telling us about other jurisdictions that are implementing similar laws, ("Other parts of the globe - such as California, Australia and a number of European jurisdictions- have already banned all inefficient light bulbs.") is as bad as downplaying the amount of mercury contained in a CFL by referring to the tip of a ballpoint pen. And again, just who will, and how will they, monitor the amount China adds to the CFL's. We can't even monitor toothpaste or baby formula today!

For your information, at the end of this letter, I am attaching the list of rigorous cleanup and ventilation details prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (yes another jurisdiction) when a CFL breaks.

And as for the banning of the incandescent light bulbs; many of us use them for the heat they emit. This is not a waste of energy, it is getting two benefits from one product. One bulb in a chicken coup keeps the coup warm and well lit. In the same manner, my lamp over my head keeps me warmer while I read my book hence I don’t have to turn up the furnace to heat the whole house, in fact a few incandescent lights reduces the time my furnace fires up. These bulbs are a 90% efficient heat source. This heat might not be good for two of those jurisdictions you used to justify your governments implementation of this new law, Australia and California, but here in BC, we could use all the good cheap efficient heat we can get.

In closing, as Minister of Energy and Mines, we clearly hope you find a way to study issues in greater depth before simply accepting what your administrative staff advises you of. You see I truly do not believe you composed this piece on your own. I believe you are much smarter than that. And as the Minister of Energy and Mines I urge you to consider the following.

In the Northwest corner of BC, where we live, Royal Dutch Shell and Fortune Minerals plan to destroy the coal water filter for the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers. We spoke at length with your predecessor, Mr. Bill Bennett at the Skeena Valley Golf and Country Club last year and he came to recognize this extensive coal body was similar to, as he described it, his Brita water filter. And that is exactly what it is, just like an aquarium, this coal reserve filters the water for all the life in the northwest. All three of these major NW Rivers have this coal bed as a common source, the headwaters for the entire Northwest corner of BC. Shell wants to drill deep holes into it and pour diesel fuel and a mixture of toxic chemicals into these holes to detonate large explosions to release the trapped methane gasses. Once they have drained the gas and destroyed the filtering effects of this region, fortune Minerals wants to dig out the coal. It would be hard to imagine how any species of salmon will survive after this.

Cynically I add, maybe by that time we will already all be twitching and suffering memory loss and cognitive impairment from mercury exposure to care anymore.

For your reference might I direct you to two articles posted on our websites.

On the overall Shell, Klappan, Fortune Plans and the three rivers.

Fortune Minerals Plans.

From the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

Ventilate the Room Before You Clean Up the Broken Bulb

• Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.

• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

• Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.

• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.

• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

• Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.

• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug:

Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.

• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.



B.C. A LEADER IN ADOPTING ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS

By Rich Coleman
Minister of Energy and Mines
June 6, 2011


VICTORIA - New light bulb standards that came into effect earlier this year are helping British Columbia lead the way for energy-efficient alternatives to 75W and 100W incandescent light bulbs.

Shifting from the old incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient light bulbs, like compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) helps conserve electricity and reduce hydro bills.

There is a wide range of lighting options that families can choose from on their store shelves - CFLs are not their only choice. If you don't want a CFL bulb, why not try a halogen bulb? These bulbs meet the new efficiency standards and contain zero mercury.

When it comes to the health concerns about CFL bulbs, Health Canada has studied them and confirmed they are safe for household use and are not hazardous to operate. The average mercury content in a CFL bulb is about three milligrams - roughly the amount it would take to cover the tip of a ball-point pen.

In March 2011, the federal government introduced new product regulations that will limit mercury content in CFLs and other products. This means that all CFLs will contain even less mercury than they have now.

The federal government will continue to move forward on implementation of its light bulb regulations and is currently consulting with stakeholders about the implementation date. We are part of a global trend toward regulating energy-efficient lighting with many jurisdictions embracing this technology. Other parts of the globe - such as California, Australia and a number of European jurisdictions- have already banned all inefficient light bulbs.

Energy-efficient light bulbs are already saving B.C. families energy and money, with over 78 per cent of B.C. homes using CFLs.
CFL bulbs
Comment by Brooke on 10th June 2011
Excellent article as usual. I totally support the fact that CFL's aren't our best health or environmental choice in lighting but how does one stop the lies?

And not to sound too cynical but exactly who is making money on these CFL bulbs that are being forced on us cuz it's a given someone is raking in the millions by the forced sales.

And just a reminder but everything can be purchased on the internet, even regular light bulbs.
silly logic (?)
Comment by Bryan N on 8th June 2011
Merv,
I have wondered, sometimes aloud, for a long time about some of our attempts to be green. This is one good example. An incandescant bulb is a glass globe, with a metal base and a filament in a vacuum. The cost to manufacture this is in the pennies, with few materials. A CFL is completely different. How can something that takes more materials (mined/manufactured where?) and a lot more effort, and is then shipped from China on behemuth fuel guzzling container ships be "good" for the environment? And when it quits, it can't or shouldn't be thrown out. So, more to make and more to get rid of later, to save in the middle. And that isn't mentioning that recent studies have shown that CFL's don't save as much as stated, because of the heat given off by incandescants, that must be replaced by another source such as your furnace.
Similar silly logic is the BC Governments decision to buy only hybrid vehicles. Wouldn't it be more logical and cheaper to buy fuel efficient cars rather than hybrid suv's?? Again, hybrid vehicles take a lot more to manufacture, gain weight, will logically have extra maintenance costs, not last as long and take more to recycle. So where is the saving?
Just my opinion.