Environmental NGOs are urging the European Commission (EC) to restrict sales of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, showing how they can be feasibly replaced with lighting emitting diode (LED) lamps. “The time is ripe for an EC decision to take CFLs (<30W) off the shelves throughout the EU by 2018,” said EEB’s Elena Lymberidi-Settimo. Since the US Energy Department’s lifecycle analysis shows that LEDs far surpass CFLs in efficiency and other environmental impacts, advocates are also calling for US retailers to follow IKEA’s lead in ending CFL sales. “LEDs are environmentally preferable to CFLs from a lifecycle perspective,” said Alicia Culver, RPN’s director. “LEDs use less energy, last three times longer than CFLs. They are a practical and affordable alternative for most general purpose lighting applications.” Workers can be exposed to mercury when manufacturing, transporting, installing, recycling or disposing of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps. Pregnant women and toddlers may be exposed above safe levels when CFLs are broken in rooms without ventilation. “LEDs don’t contain mercury and are becoming more cost competitive, especially when energy use and higher CFL disposal costs are factored in,” said MPP director Bender.
On behalf of CSPI and MPP, Earthjustice recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against FDA for failing to respond to our 2011 petition requesting the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about mercury in seafood (as recent press reports explain.) The lawsuit seeks a court-ordered deadline since under its own regulations, FDA had 180 days to respond and its failure to do so violates federal law. In 2004, FDA acknowledged MeHg exposure risks when it issued an online advisory based on now outdated research. Several recent studies suggest adverse effects at exposure levels 10-fold lower than those considered acceptable a decade ago.
On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill creating an extended producer responsibility recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbs and setting mercury content standards, modeled after the EU. Pending the Governor’s approval, Vermont will become the third state to establish such a program, following a law first passed in Maine (supported by a report– also see fact sheet) and then a second in Washington, where a weblink explains it. “This law will help continue an important lamp recycling program.” said Senator Virginai Lyons (D-Chittenden), lead sponsor of the legislation. “Protecting our waterways and other natural resources from mercury exposure is vitally important,” said Representative David Deen (D-Windham-5). More information on the retail lamp collection program is available here.
As delegates from 117 countries concluded the second round of negotiations for a legally binding treaty on mercury, they welcomed Japan’s offer to host the 2013 diplomatic conference in Minamata where the convention will be signed, due to the unprecedented mercury epidemic in the 1950’s. However, NGOs from around the world urged them to truly honor Minimata by agreeing to adopt strong measures. “If the world’s governments really want to call this the “Minamata Treaty,” then they should back up their words with meaningful actions,” said Takeshi Yasuma, of Citizens Against Chemicals Pollution, a Japanese NGO, who worked closely with Minamata groups in raising awareness at the meeting and through the news media reports.
Although delegates generally agreed on a proposed basic framework for mercury reductions, they left most all substantive issues unresolved. According to a ZMWG statement, governments now need to exert strong leadership to: monitor and reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations and other industry and industry; phase out existing mercury mining and management of stored quantities; the classification and management of mercury waste; and critical also is resolving financial aspects of the future convention. After reviewing and summarizing comments on the draft UNEP framework document, interventions were made by ZMWG and other NGOs and recommended: expanding the list of mercury-based products and processes to be regulated under the treaty, providing explicit time lines for phase outs, reducing mercury content in lamps, and strengthening provisions on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, the largest mercury use in the world, among many others.
The Washington Legislature passed a bill, EESB 5543, which requires lightbulb manufacturers to finance a statewide recycling program for lights containing mercury, including compact florescent light (CFLS). The producer-pays aspect of this bill is based on product stewardship. The recycling program will take effect on January 1st, 2013. For more detail, see press releases from King County and Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation and Northwest Energy Coalition.
MPP and VPIRG are holding Bring Back the Light, an event where Vermonters can trade in their spent bulbs for new CFLs while supplies last. The event is to highlight long term, sustainable funding solution needed for a comprehensive bulb recycling program. 100 Free bulbs generously donated by Efficiency Vermont at each participating store. Participating stores are Nelson Ace Hardware, 190 N. Main St, Barre, VT 05641, and S. Burlington Ace Hardware, 1961 Williston Rd, South Burlington, VT 05403. Links for rationale on why to recycle bulbs, and locations in Vermont where there is free bulb recycling.
At the request of New York State’s Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, MPP provides expert testimony regarding methods to reduce mercury exposure. MPP stressed the state government’s responsibility to reduce and eliminate mercury uses and releases, and also to take steps to protect its population from mercury exposure risks. Recommendations included to (1) expand risk communication for consumption of high-mercury fish, (2) strengthen mercury phase-out legislation, (3) pass new legislation requiring incentivized collections for mercury thermostats, and (4) establish maximum mercury-content standards for light bulbs.
Today, the Natural Resources Counsel of Maine (NRCM), the Green Lighting Campaign, and the Multi-State Mercury Products Campaign celebrate the passage of LD 973, “An Act to Provide for the Safe Collection and Recycling of Mercury-Containing Light Bulbs.” Passage of this “model” lamp legislation, which requires bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility of recycling mercury-containing light bulbs, sets a precedent that the Multi-State Mercury Products Campaign intends to press for other states to follow. “Final passage of the lamps legislation will send a clear message out nationally (and globally) that a new day is dawning for total life cycle management and shared responsibility– from ‘the cradle to the grave’ for products containing mercury and other hazardous substances,” said MPP Director Bender in a statement. For additional information, see the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators website.
Today, the Green Lighting Campaign along with others submitted comments in response to the DOE’s proposed Energy Conservation Standards for General Service Fluorescent Lamps and Incandescent Reflector Lamps.
We are concerned that this proposed rule will allow a significant amount of outdated lighting equipment to continue to be sold in the US marketplace even though more energy-efficient, cost-effective replacements are readily available. At a minimum, according to our comments, the DOE should adopt lighting-efficiency standards at least as stringent and broad in scope as those adopted under the European Union’s Eco-Design Standards for Energy Using Products (EuP) Directive.
“Failure to do so will place the US further behind on demonstrated leadership regarding climate change and other related environmental policy issues,” said Alicia Culver of the Green Purchasing Institute and Co-Coordinatorof the Green Lighting Campaign. “Moreover, adoption of the current proposal will run the risk of turning the US into a dumping ground for inferior lighting products that do not meet the EU’s stronger energy-efficiency requirements.”