We all know by now that fluorescent light bulbs can mean big savings on our electric bills. But many people don’t know that, if disposed of improperly, they can mean lots of mercury in the water table. A typical CFL bulb contains about 4 milligrams of mercury. A paltry amount by itself, but multiplied by millions it can add up pretty quickly. Now, before anyone gets too concerned, the mercury stays contained in the bulb. It is only released when the bulb is broken. If one gets broken in your home it does not pose a serious health risk as long as it is cleaned up and disposed of properly. That being said, unbroken bulbs that have reached the end of their life span should not just be chucked in the trash can. In case you haven’t noticed, garbage trucks are not the most delicate machines. There is a way, however, to make sure that mercury does not end up in our water supply.
While I am a huge proponent of patronizing locally owned retail establishments, this is one time I am going to recommend going to a big box retailer. Home Depot has a CFL recycling program. All you have to do is take your unbroken bulbs to the return desk and drop them off. That includes the tube fluorescent bulbs as well. Of course, they do this so that you will buy your replacement bulbs from them. That’s capitalism at work. Do not despair. You still have free will. You can always turn around and walk out and get your bulbs somewhere else, or not. It’s really up to you.
I hope everyone takes this to heart. Mercury is some pretty nasty stuff and we don’t need to be putting more of it into the environment. It really is just a matter of putting your old bulbs in a bag until you go shopping to get more. This kind of recycling does more than save resources. It can prevent serious neurological problems for unborn children. So do some random baby a favor and recycle those old bulbs. To learn more about the effects of mercury you can go here.