Mercury Poisoning in the production of fluorescent light bulbs

From the London Times:

WHEN British consumers are compelled to buy energy-efficient lightbulbs from 2012, they will save up to 5m tons of carbon dioxide a year from being pumped into the atmosphere. In China, however, a heavy environmental price is being paid for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories.

Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.

Doctors, regulators, lawyers and courts in China - which supplies two thirds of the compact fluorescent bulbs sold in Britain - are increasingly alert to the potential impacts on public health of an industry that promotes itself as a friend of the earth but depends on highly toxic mercury.

Making the bulbs requires workers to handle mercury in either solid or liquid form because a small amount of the metal is put into each bulb to start the chemical reaction that creates light. . . .

In one case, Foshan city officials intervened to order medical tests on workers at the Nanhai Feiyang lighting factory after receiving a petition alleging dangerous conditions, according to a report in the Nanfang Daily newspaper. The tests found 68 out of 72 workers were so badly poisoned they required hospitalisation.

A specialist medical journal, published by the health ministry, describes another compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Jinzhou, in central China, where 121 out of 123 employees had excessive mercury levels. One man’s level was 150 times the accepted standard.

The same journal identified a compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Anyang, eastern China, where 35% of workers suffered mercury poisoning, . . . .

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Blogger Mike Gallo said...

Irony gives me a funny feeling; like climbing the ropes in gym class.

5/13/2009 11:38 AM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

The use of Mercury in fluorescent lightbulbs is well known to those who work with them on a regular basis, i.e. electricians, building maintenance folks, etc.

With the advent of CFL's, folks need to understand that they must be disposed of properly.

China, and other countries with large populations, will probably undergo the same workplace regulations as have occured here in the U.S., and other developed nations when forced to do so by the people.

History does not repeat itself. Human nature does.

As an afterthought, has not the history of China shown that with an excess of people, they do not care about the individual? Or even better yet, Chinese culture has always been that way.

5/13/2009 5:06 PM  
Blogger Bill Bulgier said...

There is a danger to those who manufacture these mandated poison pills. This is worse for the people that make them than the sweat shops that make shoes. We are being forced to have them in our homes as well.

Have you looked up the disposal policy in your community? Mine doesn't have facilities to dispose of this hazardous waste. They say to put it in the trash to be hauled to the land fill.

Have you read the EPA guidelines on what to do if a bulb breaks in your home (Got kids?) Scary stuff, more unintentional consequences of government intervention.

I wonder how much energy is used to produce these bulbs.

One site I read stated they do not last as long as advertised. If you operate them like a normal bulb, they don't.

5/13/2009 7:23 PM  
Blogger Jack Reylan said...

China has just started using biologically cloned humanoid drones in its factories and military to counter population aging from one child policy. This biocloning began in the early 1990s to produce star athletes but was aggressivley advanced. The clones are grown in the wombs of slave women from allied African dictators. and have been known to appear on American soil as illegal workers. Given their blatant disregard for American safey in products they sell, because they don't care if we stay alive after we enrich them, it is worrisome that these clones have not been adequately tested for potential disease transmission. Why aren't anti-American professors who were hawking phoney Japanese "quality" complaining about their fellow reds in China?

5/13/2009 8:36 PM  

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