Volt Lighting has published a resource titled, “The How and Why of Recycling Mercury-Containing Bulbs” which details the importance of recycling mercury-containing lamps, the effect mercury has on public health and the environment, and a listing of state-by-state EPA regulations to help streamline waste management for mercury-containing lamps (as well as batteries and pesticides). Here are some highlights of the information presented on the website:
- Millions of mercury-containing lamps are sold in the United States each year, including linear fluorescent tubes, metal halide discharge bulbs, bug zappers, tanning bulbs and neon signs. Between 2001 and 2013, at least 40 tons of mercury-containing lamps were sold in the U.S., according to the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association.
- The national light bulb recycling rate in the commercial and industrial sectors is around 30 percent, according to the Association of Light Bulb and Mercury Recyclers. This is an especially concerning statistic when you consider that nonresidential lighting systems account for about half of all lighting and bulb manufacturing in the U.S., according to figures from the National Association of Electrical Distributors. In other words, approximately 70 percent of the millions of mercury-containing lamps sold in America each year are not discarded properly.
- When broken, crushed or otherwise disposed of improperly, mercury-containing bulbs may release trace amounts of mercury into the air, water and soil. Although the amount of mercury in bulbs sold today is low (typical range is between 3.5 to 15 milligrams, depending on the type of lamp, the manufacturer and when the fluorescent lamp was manufactured) the large number of improperly-discarded bulbs collectively poses a significant risk to human health and the environment.
- Mercury is considered as one of the top 10 chemicals or group of chemicals of major public health concern by the World Health Organization. Once in the environment, mercury can be transformed by bacteria into methylmercury. Women who are pregnant and/or nursing may expose their babies to methylmercury after consuming toxic fish or shellfish.
- Exposure to methylmercury can adversely affect a baby’s developing brain and nervous system. The primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development (cognitive thinking, memory, attention, fine motor and spatial skills). Exposure to elemental mercury—even small amounts—like the kind found in fluorescent light bulbs may cause serious health problems.
The website explains how to establish a light bulb recycling program. Be sure to check out this helpful site.