Canada to ban mercury products, CFL’s get a pass

Canada’s federal government has announced it is to ban many products that contain mercury, including thermometers.

This is the same federal government that banned the incandescent light bulb in favor of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s).

One of the few products to escape the new mercury ban is CFL light bulbs. To ban mercury in most products while legislating every home in Canada must use mercury-laden CFL’s is the kind of logic only a government could love.

The reason for the planned ban is noble enough:

“These proposed regulations would eliminate about 4.5 tonnes of mercury in products currently entering the Canadian marketplace each year,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said in a statement released on Monday.

The question is, how much mercury will trashed CFL’s contribute to Canada’s environment going forward?  Although the curly critters are supposed to be ‘properly disposed of’, it’s not easy to get rid of a dead lamp. Most people will do what they’ve always done when a bulb is fried –  change it and toss the old one into the garbage without a second thought. And therein is the problem with the government’s quixotic position on mercury in Canada.

Either mercury is a serious environmental problem, or it’s not.  Neither hippies nor government can have it both ways.  If the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Environment Minister Peter Kent all think it so dangerous, ban all household products that contain it without exception.

David Suzuki lent his face to the campaign to adopt CFL’s, so naturally he is equivocating about the risk:

…we have to keep things in perspective. The amount of mercury in a CFL is tiny — many times less than is found in a watch battery or dental filling. Coal-fired power plants are the single largest sources of mercury in our environment today, because coal contains mercury

Straw man arguments aside, Suzuki is correct – the amount of mercury in a CFL is tiny, approximately 4mg per lamp (pdf).  The problem comes from how many millions of the things we’ll send to landfills in the future.  We’ll literally be creating an environmental time bomb, in the name of green.

Canada’s government needs to repeal the ban on incandescent light bulbs if they’re serious about mercury and its danger to public health.  They must realize their current position is untenable but prefer to peddle hypocrisy than admit a mistake in what may be an election year.  They should rest easy – kicking the curly bomblets to the curb would win them more votes that they’d lose.

Governments can rarely be counted on to do the right thing for the right reasons, but if it’s votes they’re after – let them know how you feel about banning mercury while keeping the CFL.  You can find your MP here, give them a call or send an email.


26 thoughts on “Canada to ban mercury products, CFL’s get a pass”

  1. But…but…GE is going to save us from Thermageddon.
    We have to let them continue to bribe our politicians.
    The Chinese said so.

    As you say, a plan only government could love.

  2. David Suzuki needs to go away! He is not a scientist, he is a politician. How much Mercury is in a gram of coal? Probably the same amount that exists naturally in the world! Doctors used to give patients Mercury to help clean out bowels! Did humankind die off from that? No! Once again the government has made decisions based on lies and complete ignorance! We can’t afford this type of decision making!!!!!

  3. So 4.5 tonnes is eliminated….and one million cfl’s contain….about 4 tonnes ?
    Am I missing something ?

  4. even if 1% of the canadian population threw out 1 cfl in the trash, that, 1.6 million mg’s of mercury put into the environment, and 200 mg of this kind of mercury is a lethal dose. that’s enough to kill 8000 people. that’s after bulb thrown away by 1%.

    you know there won’t be a 100% compliance to the CFL “seal and dispose properly” bull.

  5. Read that “5 Ways to Dispose of” article. Oy.

    The first two, get your trash collector (private or government, thus two) to handle them. Yeah – that is why half the UK government trash-disposal outfits already say they won’t –

    Or save them in a special plastic bucket until you have about thirty (with incandescents, that would take me about twelve years, with CFLs?) and then pay about the same as they cost in the first place to have them recycled. Assuming you can find a shipper that handles hazardous waste, which will also cost about the same.

    OR just plain keep them. Now, there is a winning idea!

  6. Most normal people in the U.S. will have enough incandys stored away to last them for the rest of the lives plus some spares. I have boxes of them and still storing up more. It will only be the greenies who have to deal with all the hassle and stupidity that they created.

  7. I got an even better idea.

    save all the CFL’s you can(in a bucket or whatever), take them to your nearest parliament building or any environmental HQ, and smash them right on their doorstep. For best results, do it in the summer time when windows are open. 1 person isn’t enough to make an impact, so you’re going to need a few friends, and if it drifts into the building, coating shit in mercury-laden dust, you’ve effectively made your point that these bulbs are dangerous, so ban them and bring back incondescent. you can protest andf bitch, but the government will just try to tell you what you want and yadi yada yada, so you gotta prove how dangerous they are.

  8. Problem with mercury is not so much the quantity but the form it takes, it cannot be absorbed through the skin when it is in liquid form, but as tiny particles it can be inhaled, and this is dangerous.

  9. RE CFL mercury exemption

    The exemption for CFLs, on the basis that that Coal power
    plant mercury is worse than CFL mercury does not hold, for many reasons -in
    particular for USA + Canada, as explained:
    which covers Canadian Environment Dept emission reduction mandates using new technology etc

    More extensively:
    The CFL Mercury Issue
    Breakage — Recycling — Dumping — Mining — Manufacturing — Transport —
    Power Plants

    In a nutshell:
    1. We know where the ever decreasing local coal power plant chimneys are and we can treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency at lower costs
    – note the also USA EPA power plant emission reduction policy using new technology, under EPA admin Lisa Jackson.
    2. Compare that with a broken CFL at home, with mercury release on the spot.
    3. Also compare that with future billions of scattered broken CFLs
    elsewhere, when we do not know where all the broken lights will be, and so
    it is much harder and often impossible to do anything about them.
    4. Also compare that with any recycled CFLs, with its own mercury release,
    including the mercury release from any shipping transport from, and back to, China for
    new CFL manufacturing, apart from the mining and manufacturing issues as mentioned.

  10. The inmates are running the asylum.

    But you ain’t seen nothing yet.
    The worst is still to come.
    Look at the UK where in 10 years you can only light your house
    or work in your office when the wind is blowing hard enough…

    The insanity of the green loons has no borders.

  11. There are really only 2 choices on getting rid of a dead CFL. Send it to David Suzuki at one of his tax free foundation offices:

    Vancouver (Head Office)
    219 – 2211 West 4th Avenue
    Vancouver, BC V6K 4S2

    Toronto Office
    101 – 179 John Street
    Toronto, ON M5T 1X4

    Ottawa Office
    The David Suzuki Foundation
    415 – 151 Slater Street
    Ottawa, ON K1P 5H3

    Montreal Office
    307 – 460, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest
    Montreal QC, H3B 1A7

    Or send it to your MP or CongressCritter. Put it in a small box (buy yourself a piece of cake at your local bakery!) and mail it, If it is to your congresscritter, then you don’t even need postage!

    Of course, use a non-existent return address! And you might want to make sure there are no fingerprints. It’s probably a heinous felony to mock the EPA droids.

  12. Canada. Warning. Don’t let them do the ban of INCANDESCENTS. Here in Australia it is a DISASTER. NO RECYCLING. GOV’T will not listen to its citizens. My last travel around Australia I finally brought my own incandescents because nothing but CFL’s and Fluorescent tubes (raw, no covers many places) with terrible annoying light. And shopping centers have either very high power lights that you have to literally put hands up to stop buring eyes or dangling CFLs just above where you eat. It’s also a social issue now. I refuse to go to people’s houses that have CFL’s. I can’t stand Australia anymore. STOP THE BAN OF INCANDESCENTS. Even Canada gov’t is screwed. A 2003 leaked report (on the www) basically points out to US study indicating max 3% takeup at the time. People kept going back to incandescents. Then a bit later… The ban started. Well, well, well. What lies and hypocricy. I thought they were banning mercury. PLEASE GET TOGETHER AND BAN THE BAN. Here is Australia they go to your home and bribe you to take away you Incandescents and pay you to get rid of them. They take all you old ones and give you CFL’s. I am under ‘house arrest’ now because I don’t like going out. Street lights, restaurants, hotel, motel rooms, shopping centers either have EXTREAMELY bright lights with no covers to protect your eyes or CFL’s all over the place. I now HATE Australia. I am not exacgerating at all. Just come and see… I am originally from Canada. What a f disaster. STOP THE BAN. Cheers, Ron Lentjes.

  13. CFLs don’t make economic sense for Canadian residential use. In the winter, you don’t get any savings because CFLs give off less heat, which has to be made up by more use of the furnace. And in the summer, the daylight is long, so you don’t use the incandescent lightbulbs much anyway. These are two mitigating factors that were not taken into account when doing the cost comparison between incandescent and CFLs.

  14. Here is just an example of the same insanity of BANNING INCANDESCENTS.

    On PCBs (printed circuit boards) it was common to tin plate the copper conducting paths and then apply the solder (that contains lead) on to the tin plating. A finished product.

    But now due to ban of lead, they now try only using tin plating and using non-lead tin solder.

    Now at first that seems reasonable. Got rid of the lead.

    But guess what. Tin by a freak of nature, creates these dam critters call whiskers. They grow and grow until they short circuit the electronics (which may damage or cause an intermittent fault (as in ‘airplane, bank left and dive to ground please’).

    (This phenomenumenum has been know since about 40s or so, and also know that lead
    solder stops this bad behavior).

    So all these hypie environmentalist keep destroying all the things OTHER people has already fixed!

    Any one failure mode for higher current/voltage is an arc plasma fire! Mmm sounds familiar to me (or is it just the exploding capacitors)??… Lookup CFL fires reports…

    Yep, more efficient lighting (aka shit light).

    Yep, no more standard lead solder (aka electronics no longer stable, including any airplane in the sky). (Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want kids licking lead paint, but eating entire TV sets? I mean melting todays plastic is toxic toxic toxic by comparison – try it, light candle, put LED under flame – BE WARNED it will ignite instantly and you be choking on it – be sure you know to aggressively put the LED fire out! – and I didn’t tell you to burn down your house!).

    Yep, no more nice INCANDESCENT sun. I hear they are planning to bring in a 10x hotter CFL sun that burns much more efficiently. Get out your UV 10000000000 block (aka planet sized bottle – or hide behind big planet rock for that matter).

    Yep, I hear what’s next is we not allowed to have any colored furnature other than shiney silver (’cause black/color absorbes too many photons and heats up the material – a dam waist).

    I’m hiding behind Pluto, see yah.

    What are Tin Whiskers?

    Tin whiskers are electrically conductive, crystalline structures of tin that sometimes grow from surfaces where tin (especially electroplated tin) is used as a final finish. Tin whiskers have been observed to grow to lengths of several millimeters (mm) and in rare instances to lengths in excess of 10 mm. Numerous electronic system failures have been attributed to short circuits caused by tin whiskers that bridge closely-spaced circuit elements maintained at different electrical potentials.

    Tin whiskers are not a new phenomenon. Indeed, the first published reports of tin whiskers date back to the 1940s and 1950s. Tin is only one of several metals that is known to be capable of growing whiskers.

    Why the Recent Attention to Tin Whiskers?

    The current worldwide initiative to reduce the use of potentially hazardous materials such as lead (Pb) is driving the electronics industry to consider alternatives to the widely used tin-lead alloys used for plating.

    For example, the European Union has enacted legislation known as the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directives which have set June 2006 as deadlines for electronic equipment suppliers to eliminate most uses of Pb from their products.

    Continuing reports of tin whisker-induced failures coupled with the lack of an industry accepted understanding of tin whisker growth factors and/or proven and reliable test methods to identify whisker-prone products has made a blanket acceptance of pure tin plating a risky proposition for high reliability systems.

    Still, organizations such as NASA and the DoD may soon be faced with few options other than pure tin plating since the desires of the commercial market for environmentally friendly components carry far more weight than the infinitesimally small market share of the high reliability user.

    (See link above)

  15. Oh yes, guys, don’t forget that this ban IS not really about fixing environment. It’s about fixing GREEDY pockets!

    I get the exact same copy of excuses in letter for letter form the gov’ts around the globe! Think about it.

    Just do the research and FOLLOW THE $$$MONEY$$$.

    Hint: It’s way more $$$PROFIT$$$ to sell CFL and the whole crap than to sell the WINNING INCANDESCENT!

    Hint: Why have they not banned 150W lights?
    Hint: Why are they handing out very breakable glass of MERCURY?

    China: Where are all your jobs going?
    China: You can’t make in USA. Lookup reports of LARGE SPILLS of mercury during manufacturing! You think 5mg is poisonous enough (don’t forget, only small amount required for very dangerous levels of vapour esp if light was on when hit!). How about kicking the bucket over???

    I think they forgot one thing. A sticker. ‘BREAK HERE’ and ‘BREATHE DEEPLY’, dumb peasant.

  16. Dam, I figured it out.

    They are banning LEAD ’cause they need it to cover up the NUCLEAR dispatchment particular manifestos (aka 1 Terra-Sievert Soup)!

    Some say if they can’t get enough cooperation with the LEAD ban, they’re just throw some TV sets on the PILE instead.

    BTW did you know. Instead of throwing runners onto power lines (common past time here in Australia), just tie two CFL’s on show string and throw on high power lines. I’d bet they glow nicely in the voltage field between the lines!

    But I’m not advocating this because if you miss, you’ll die from the MERCURY vapour!

    (I had to say something to make this a CFL topic)

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