Greenie blowback: the mercury time bomb in your home

Thomas Lifson
Bookworm has been doing some research on what happens when you break one of those curly compact fluorescent bulbs. The ones with about 5 mg of highly poisonous mercury in them, the ones that we all may be forced to bring into our homes.

It may not be true that you will be forced to spend $2000 on a toxic waste clean-up, but if you clean it up yourself, you may also be leaving behind mercury, which insidiously finds its way into cracks and tiny indentations in the flooring, and which can vaporize and slowly poison you and your family. Above all, you must not use the vacuum!

Pure elemental mercury is a cumulative heavy-metal poison that is moderately absorbed through the skin, rather poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, and readily absorbed as vapor through the lungs. The element is strongly toxic when absorbed as vapor from the respiratory tract, but it is considerably less so when exposure occurs via other routes.

I urge everyone who has a CFL bulb in the house (I have many of them), or who is considering buying them, either to save money or to get an approving nod from the Laurie Davids of the world, to read Bookworm's entry, which has lots of resources linked. She mentions her own experience with mercury poisoning, so let me relate mine:

I was deeply involved in the very first case which brought the dangers of mercury poisoning to the world's attention: Minamata, the Japanese fishing community which experienced multiple cases of severe mercury poisoning, thanks to contamination of the local fish by waste discharged from a factory belonging to Chisso Corporation, then a major Japanese chemical company. At the time (1971 and 72) I was working for Ralph Nader in Japan, campaigning for pollution controls and consumer protection laws. Because of Ralph's prominence, I was invited to help the local fishermen who were then seeking to have the mass affliction recognized, and to obtain official recognition and compensation.

W. Eugene Smith, then one of the most famous photographers in the world, came to Minamata to photograph the effects of what came to be known as Minamata disease, and decided to stay on and do an extended photo essay, later published in book form. I became quite friendly with Gene and his wife Aileen, and even visited the Uemura family, whose daughter Tomoko became one of the subjects of Gene's work. The photograph of Tomoko Uemura's deformed child body being bathed became one of the most famous photographs in the history of the art form, and helped spark worldwide understanding of the dangers of mercury. Later, after Tomoko died, her family asked that the photograph be withdrawn from circulation, and because the Smiths gave the copyright to them, it can no longer be published.  But Wikipedia features another photo  from the series, and those who are unfamiliar with the famous photograph can get a sense of the trauma of Tomoko, and by extension the incredible effects of mercury poisoning.

My experiences with Minamata's victims, and with the Chisso Corporation, which behaved in a terrible manner, denying responsibility and refusing to offer compensation, were a formative life experience. I am quite frankly alarmed at all heavy metal poisoning possibilities. You don't forget meeting someone like Tomoko. 

I have probably disposed of a number of CFLs by throwing them in the trash, blissfully unaware at the time that they were toxic bombs. I wonder if my trash can is contaminated? How about the local dump and groundwater? My experience with the CFL bulbs has been decidedly mixed. Quite a few stopped working after being installed, despite claims of a long useful life. Now I have to worry about all those bulbs in my house, and what to do with them when they fail.

Gene Smith was brutally attacked by unknown assailants, his head beaten with an iron bar; he never recovered from the resulting brain damage, and died after a few years of convalescence. So far as I know, no direct link was ever established to the company. He and Aileen suffered terribly for his artistic genius and desire to do the right thing.

So when greenies write in to accuse American Thinker of being on the Dark Side for crusading against CFLs, I have a silent bitter laugh and think about Tomoko and Gene.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.
Bookworm has been doing some research on what happens when you break one of those curly compact fluorescent bulbs. The ones with about 5 mg of highly poisonous mercury in them, the ones that we all may be forced to bring into our homes.

It may not be true that you will be forced to spend $2000 on a toxic waste clean-up, but if you clean it up yourself, you may also be leaving behind mercury, which insidiously finds its way into cracks and tiny indentations in the flooring, and which can vaporize and slowly poison you and your family. Above all, you must not use the vacuum!

Pure elemental mercury is a cumulative heavy-metal poison that is moderately absorbed through the skin, rather poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, and readily absorbed as vapor through the lungs. The element is strongly toxic when absorbed as vapor from the respiratory tract, but it is considerably less so when exposure occurs via other routes.

I urge everyone who has a CFL bulb in the house (I have many of them), or who is considering buying them, either to save money or to get an approving nod from the Laurie Davids of the world, to read Bookworm's entry, which has lots of resources linked. She mentions her own experience with mercury poisoning, so let me relate mine:

I was deeply involved in the very first case which brought the dangers of mercury poisoning to the world's attention: Minamata, the Japanese fishing community which experienced multiple cases of severe mercury poisoning, thanks to contamination of the local fish by waste discharged from a factory belonging to Chisso Corporation, then a major Japanese chemical company. At the time (1971 and 72) I was working for Ralph Nader in Japan, campaigning for pollution controls and consumer protection laws. Because of Ralph's prominence, I was invited to help the local fishermen who were then seeking to have the mass affliction recognized, and to obtain official recognition and compensation.

W. Eugene Smith, then one of the most famous photographers in the world, came to Minamata to photograph the effects of what came to be known as Minamata disease, and decided to stay on and do an extended photo essay, later published in book form. I became quite friendly with Gene and his wife Aileen, and even visited the Uemura family, whose daughter Tomoko became one of the subjects of Gene's work. The photograph of Tomoko Uemura's deformed child body being bathed became one of the most famous photographs in the history of the art form, and helped spark worldwide understanding of the dangers of mercury. Later, after Tomoko died, her family asked that the photograph be withdrawn from circulation, and because the Smiths gave the copyright to them, it can no longer be published.  But Wikipedia features another photo  from the series, and those who are unfamiliar with the famous photograph can get a sense of the trauma of Tomoko, and by extension the incredible effects of mercury poisoning.

My experiences with Minamata's victims, and with the Chisso Corporation, which behaved in a terrible manner, denying responsibility and refusing to offer compensation, were a formative life experience. I am quite frankly alarmed at all heavy metal poisoning possibilities. You don't forget meeting someone like Tomoko. 

I have probably disposed of a number of CFLs by throwing them in the trash, blissfully unaware at the time that they were toxic bombs. I wonder if my trash can is contaminated? How about the local dump and groundwater? My experience with the CFL bulbs has been decidedly mixed. Quite a few stopped working after being installed, despite claims of a long useful life. Now I have to worry about all those bulbs in my house, and what to do with them when they fail.

Gene Smith was brutally attacked by unknown assailants, his head beaten with an iron bar; he never recovered from the resulting brain damage, and died after a few years of convalescence. So far as I know, no direct link was ever established to the company. He and Aileen suffered terribly for his artistic genius and desire to do the right thing.

So when greenies write in to accuse American Thinker of being on the Dark Side for crusading against CFLs, I have a silent bitter laugh and think about Tomoko and Gene.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.