Fluorescent lamps, although saving electrical energy, must be
handled with precautions as they contain varying amounts of Mercury
and smaller amounts of other metals, as Nickel, Zink, Cadmium, Lead
and Manganese. Furthermore some bad
quality lamps and also older lamps, may leak Ultraviolet light, with
a wavelength of 253nm in the lower part of the spectrum and
invisible to human eyes. Specially watch out for the larger size fluorescent tubes which soon might loose the phosphor
coating at the extremes of the tube.
advisable to avoid working closer than 30 cm from and looking into
the light of fluorescent lamps, the Ultraviolet light is invisible
to us, but nonetheless can cause skin and eye damage.
lamps come in different models, such as linear tubes, measured in
various lengths in increments of one foot. up to eight feet. The
diameter of the tubes are measures in increments of octaves of an
inch. So a T2 is 2/8 of an inch and T8 is 8/8 of an inch or one inch.
The larger diameter tubes like T12 are in fact already obsolete and
should be phased out. They contain too much Mercury, are less
efficient, more prone to leakage of Ultraviolet light and are difficult to
handle. Newer linear tubes have a diameter of 5/8 of an inch. There
length is however different from the other tubes (116 cm)
also U-bend, circular and compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs. The
latter also maybe encapsulated.
light is just one of
the three concerns which are involved with the use of fluorescent
lamps The two other concerns are in case such a lamp breaks. A cut
of the glass may cause a problem with bleeding as the phosphor
inhibits the coagulation of the blood and the broken lamp will leak
Mercury gas if it is still hot or in liquid form if it cooled off.
See at the bottom of this writing how to handle these lamps.
effort to lower the Mercury content, is possible through improved
technology. The European Union banned incandescent lamps of higher
wattages ever since September 01 2009 and will ban fluorescent lamps
with content higher than 5 mg per September 01 of 2012. Although the
quantities of Mercury in the individual lamps is going down, the
mere quantity of the total lamp population is growing rapidly.
The mercury gas in
these lamps is ignited when switched on and produces Ultra Violet
light. The powder coating of phosphor at the inner wall of the tube
filters this light and converts this into white light. Depending of
the formula of the coating, the lamp produces light of various color
temperatures, measured in degrees KELVIN. Below 4000 degree, the
light popularly is called warm white. The higher the degree the term
goes to cold white up to daylight around 7000 degrees KELVIN.
Unfortunately most of these lamps, at the end of their life cycle, are
dumped in the garbage, where they easily break and contaminate
those who are handling the garbage, the soils, the waters and the
animals and humans who are at the end of the food chain.
The amounts of Mercury is beyond what should be permissible.
Compacts contain some 4 to 10 mg of Mercury, while linear lamps
contain up to 40 mg. Get informed
how to handle these lamps, especially if one
breaks in the house or office,
from the site of the EPA.
Never handle these compact lamps by the
spiral, which is the weakest part. Grab the base instead.
Due to the
ever increasing quantities of these lamps used, the trashing of
these lamps in the landfills is not a good practice. The Government
and private enterprise should work together to provide possibilities
to recycle the lamps and inform the users about the necessity to
recycle. The manufacturers of the lamps should be obliged to post
short guidelines on the packages to inform the general public how to
handle these lamps safely.
type of lamps, known as solid state lamps with LEDs (light emitting
diodes) are in development and the technology is progressing at a
high speed. For some applications it is already possible to
substitute existing lighting, with even greater energy savings
From Left to right: Lit CFL, U-bend Tube CFL,
Encapsulated CFL. Fluorescent Tube