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A bright idea from Uncle Sam: Mercury poisoning possibility for every household

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POSTED June 20, 2011 12:36 a.m.

Lead and asbestos have been banned by government decree from being used in homes.

Lead poisoning from peeling paint flakes as well as respiratory related diseases from asbestos fibers from insulation are well documented health concerns.

Your health, though, isn’t a concern of Uncle Sam when it comes to light bulbs.

In just a little over six months from now on Jan. 1, 2012 it will become illegal to sell conventional incandescent light bulbs in the United States.

The 2007 law was signed by President George Bush at the height of the uproar over global warming. It was the same rationale debate that gave us massive federal tax credits to produce ethanol fuel. Since then the Father of Global Warming himself, Al Gore, has conceded the manufacturer of ethanol is a folly as it consumes more energy than it produces and should be dropped. Ethanol has sent food prices sky high as farmers go for the sure thing enticed by firms rolling in $5 billion of federal ethanol tax credits.

The bottom line for ethanol is that it costs too much, has no positive net gain in energy savings, and has the added bonus of forcing people to pay more for food at best or to go hungry in Third World countries at worst.

Not to rest on its laurels the federal government has decreed only compact fluorescent lights or CFLs can be sold. Actually, they didn’t say that exactly. The Department of Energy explains that outlawing incandescent bulbs will “empower consumers with lighting choices.” In other words as long as you buy the bulb that the government dictates that you buy you will have the empowerment to choose what you want.

Gorge Orwell couldn’t have said it any better.

Not only are CFLs significantly more expensive, but they come with something that an incandescent light bulb doesn’t: Three pages of directions on the Environment Protection Agency website on what to do if you break a CFL light bulb in your house.

It might surprise you to know a CFL contains traces of mercury that is considered highly toxic. The mercury vapors can be released in the air when broken.

So if you break a CFL bulb, the EPA advises you shut off your central heat and air conditioning, open the windows for about 15 minutes and keep your pets and children in a separate room until the danger passes.

Remember when the worst thing that could happen during an earthquake was your roof and walls to come crashing down and a natural gas line serving your house explode? You’d better keep your fingers crossed you don’t break a CFL bulb when it is 34 degrees outside or that an earthquake doesn’t knock over your lamps.

Cleaning up the glass fragments and powder after you break a CFL is interesting as well. The EPA says you should “carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid.” At least you don’t have to call out the haz-mat team, at least not yet.

But wait, we live in California, the promised land of environmental perfection. Burned out CFL bulbs are hazardous household waste that could contaminate soil and water which means you must take them to pre-designated recycling locations.

All of this is supposed to help an average household save $50 a year in electricity based on what proponents of the 2007 law proclaimed.

I can’t help but wonder if those on limited income with the price of everything from food to gas going up can afford to replace those that burn out after Jan. 1, 2012 given that a typical CFL light bulb costs between three and 10 times more than the incandescent bulbs they replace.

Isn’t it grand our government has empowered all of us to have the freedom to make choices on the light bulbs we buy much like the Central Planning Committee of the old Soviet Union.

If you listen hard enough you can probably hear Joseph Stalin laughing uncontrollably in his tomb.

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