How Much Mercury Do CFLs Actually Contain?

October 5th, 2011, By Matthew Van Dusen

It’s a zombie myth that just won’t stay down: Yes Compact Flourescent Lamps contain toxic mercury. There is about as much truth to that statement as there is mercury in CFLS — which is to say, trace amounts. CFLs do contain mercury, but in quantities so small that breaking one exposes you, in most cases, to less mercury than eating tuna fish. 

Then they consulted the USEPA and contacted a lighting specialist from General Electric (their sponsor) in order to take on the issue of mercury in CFLs.

How does mercury help produce light in CFLs?  CFLs are glass tubes that are filled with argon gas and mercury vapor. When an electric current passes through the tube, the mercury emits ultraviolet light that excites a phosphor coating on the tube. The coating then emits light.

Are we talking about high levels of mercury?  No. And the amount of mercury in CFLs has dropped steadily since they first made inroads into the market 15-20 years ago. As recently as 2007, CFLs contained about 5 milligrams, enough to cover a ballpoint pen tip. Since then, regulations in the European Union, which have also been adopted in California and other areas, have mandated that the amount of mercury in CFLs be limited to 3.5 mg by 2012 and 2.5 mg by 2013.

Written by greenlivingguy

The Green Living Guy, Seth Leitman is a green living expert, celebrity and Editor of the McGraw-Hill, TAB Green Guru Guides. Seth is also an Author, Radio Host, Reporter, Writer and a Environmental Consultant on green living. The Green Living Guy writes about green living, green lighting, the green guru guides and more. Seth's books range from: # Build Your Own Electric Vehicle by Bob Brant and Seth Leitman (2nd and 3rd editions) # Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle by Seth Leitman # Build Your Own Electric Motorcycle by Carl Vogel # Green Lighting by Seth Leitman, Brian Clark Howard and Bill Brinsky # Solar Power For Your Home by David Findley # Renewable Energies For Your Home by Russel Gehrke # Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audits by David Findley # Build Your Own Small Wind Power System by Brian Clark Howard and Kevin Shea # and more green living books to follow.