Public warned on improper disposal of CFLsBy Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—An environment group has cautioned the public against the improper disposal of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) as these energy efficient lighting facilities can be highly toxic due to its mercury content and therefore hazardous to health and environment.
The appeal was issued Monday morning by the EcoWaste Coalition as the Department of Energy began distributing last week 3.6 million CFLs under the National Residential Lighting Program of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP).
“While recognizing the climate benefits of CFLs, we urge users to strictly follow safety precautions, from lamp installation to disposal, to avoid breakage and exposure to mercury,” EcoWaste coordinator Thony Dizon said in a statement.
“Products and wastes containing mercury such as busted fluorescent lamps should be carefully handled and not mixed with regular household discards nor dumped or burned,” Dizon emphasized.
The 3.6 million 14-watt CFLs that are being distributed are expected to generate a reduction in consumption of up to 82.78 million kilowatt-hours yearly, equivalent to P827.82 million in electricity savings. At the same time, the use of CFLs can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 44,702 tons.
However, each of the 14-watt CFLs contains 1.5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic substance that is often released due to product breakage or through recycling in uncontrolled conditions.
A study prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and which was included in a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on heavy metals in products has noted some challenges in the country’s shift from incandescent bulbs to CFLs.
“These challenges included the lack of producer responsibility or take back system for discarded lamps, the lack of mercury information and precaution on product labels, the lack of public education on mercury exposure and emergency response measures, the lack of a functional system for collecting busted lamps, including storage, and the informal recycling of busted lamps in dumpsites and junk shops that releases mercury vapor into the surroundings,” the group said.
According to the government-published “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” guidebook, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss and tremors.”
Even a low-level exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects that include neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities, the guidebook further stated.
To minimize exposure to mercury-containing lamps and wastes, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the public to take precautionary steps.
CFL users must handle spent mercury-containing lamps with extreme care as they can easily break; must not burn lamps containing mercury or throw them into regular waste bins; not play with discarded lamps or leave them lying around; must return spent lamp to its original box container or place in a clear plastic bag, seal and mark “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury”; store spent lamps in an upright position and place in a covered tin; and keep the storage area safe, out of children’s reach and away from the elements and human traffic.