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Here’s the lowdown on the energy-efficient bulbs

BY KEN SHEINKOPF Published: October 10, 2009
It is time to get the facts and the myths about compact fluorescent bulbs — CFLs — to address the concerns, questions and rumors that seem to be everywhere these days.

And because I often hear from readers complaining that the CFLs they buy never last very long, I tried to find out the best ways to use the bulbs so they reach the promised lifetimes their manufacturers claim. Consider the following:

Mercury: CFLs do contain about 5 milligrams of mercury. The bulbs do not emit mercury when they are being used. When putting them into lamps, hold the bulbs by their base and don’t force them into the socket.

Breaking: The only way for the mercury vapor to escape the tube is if the bulb breaks. If that happens, ventilating the room for about 15 minutes will allow the gas to escape. You can then carefully scoop up the broken pieces, double-bag them and throw them out with your trash.

Sources: The largest manmade sources of mercury are coal-fired power plants If you’re really concerned about the amount of mercury in our air, then, you’re actually better off buying CFLs than incandescents. Since CFLs use less electricity than incandescents, they actually reduce the amount of mercury getting into our environment.

Disposal: To dispose of unbroken bulbs, it is recommended that you take them to a recycling center in your community.