The Anatomy Of The "Dangerous Levels Of Mercury In CFLs" Myth

A woman in Maine broke a CFL and, rather than carefully cleaning the mess up herself, she called Home Depot. They told her not to vacuum, and directed her to call Poison Control. Poison Control directed her to the Maine DEP, who then sent an agent. The agent told her to call in a toxic waste team to give an estimate. Naturally, they told her it was going to be around $2,000. She heard that number, walled off the bedroom and alerted the local media.

Enter Fox News, where Steven “Junk Science” Milloy a well known, self-appointed “Junk Science expert” and global warming denier, writes an editorial extolling the dangers of CFLs to you, me, and our precious, precious babies.

TreeHugger addressed the “problem” of mercury in CFLs here, if you’d like to learn about it.

The fact is that unless you break the CFL, then live with your face right on the spot where it broke for the next few years, you’re probably going to die of something other than mercury poisoning. We know, life is so dangerous, isn’t it?

According to the original article quoted in the Fox News piece, the type of bulb the woman broke has about 5 milligrams of mercury, compared to say, 500 to 3,000 mg in a thermometer. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s spokesperson told the paper: “We encourage people not to panic if they break a lightbulb.” They’ve instructed the woman on how to properly clean up the mess, but she refuses, claiming conspiracy.

“I believe their first notion to have it cleaned professionally was correct. They told me to do it this way. Why would they change their stories when the papers got a hold of them?” she said. —MEGHANN MARCO

Fluorescent Bulb Break Creates Costly Hassle [The Ellsworth American]
Junk Science: Light Bulb Lunacy [Fox News]
The $ 2000 CFL Cleanup: Where Urban Myths Come From [TreeHugger]
Ask TreeHugger: Is Mercury from a Broken CFL Dangerous? [TreeHugger]

(Photo: Nick Gosling, The Ellsworth American)