Waste CFLs pose health hazard

Heaps of broken lamps are ending up in lake beds leading to groundwater pollution

As the energy conservation becomes a necessity, the incandescent lamps have paved way for CFLs, ‘the green bulb’ considering their longer life and least energy consumption.
“We have seen this being dumped in lakes and other places. We found a huge quantity in Konasandra lake near Kengeri. It is hazardous to all living beings, as this bulb contains mercury. It is bound to contaminate the groundwater, but so far, no study is being taken up other than these findings,” said Dr Nandini, Reader, Department of Environment Sciences, Bangalore University.

She said that the department did not focus on the issue until they found a huge quantity of discarded lamps in the lake.

“It is present near all water bodies in a negligible quantity, but it is worse at the Konasandra lake. This might be the work of an illegal manufacturing unit. This is a new threat, and it is time we did something about this, before the situation becomes worse,” she added.

With no manufacturing units in the City, the CFL bulbs are imported in parts and assembled in various unorganised assembling units spread across the City.
The bulb has two main parts - the gas-filled burner (bulb or burner) and the magnetic or electronic ballast. “The tube also contains organ gas, which is again harmful to health,” explained Dr Nandini.

Why CFLs?

Compared to general service incandescent lamps giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use less power and have a longer life span.

The average rated life of a CFL is between 8 and 15 times than that of incandescent. CFLs typically have a rated lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps are usually manufactured to have a lifespan of 750 hours or 1,000 hours and consumes about one fifth of the power, equivalent to incandescent lamps.
The mercury in the bulb kills the aquatic life and biodiversity, it will be carcinogenic if enters the blood. In the nervous system it affects the central nervous system and impairs vision. Children exposed to it suffer from acrodenia (pink disease, which toxifies the blood).

Remedies

Considering that the manufacturing units are unorganised, it would be difficult to set up norms for the disposal of this waste.

Though the European Union has adopted Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR), the problem being new in India, Dr Nandini suggests that there should be immediate educational programme, where people are made aware of its dangers. “Apart from this, the offenders should be punished,” she said.
DH News Service

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