Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What is the Lighting Industry Doing to Reduce Mercury Use?

The lighting industry has slowly reduced the amount of mercury used in fluorescent lamps over the past 20 years and, according to NEMA surveys, mercury use has been reduced dramatically over the last 7 years.(1) Since 1990, NEMA has conducted a number of surveys, which indicate the total amount of mercury contained in all lamps in the U.S. declined to 17 tons in 1994, 13 tons in 1999, 9 tons in 2001 and 7 tons in 2003—nearly a 90% reduction from previous years.(2) According to this trend, researchers believe this number will continue to decline in future years.

The lighting industry accomplished these dramatic reductions by collectively investing millions of dollars in new lamp manufacturing equipment and processes. However, fluorescent lamps must still be handled, stored and transported to recycling facilities with care. To ensure the safety of people who handle these lamps and the environment, there is a need for better regulations for packaging that controls the release of mercury vapor emitted from broken lamps.

1.“Fluorescent and other Mercury-Containing Lamps and the Environment,” NEMA, March 2005.
2.“Lamp Industry Product Stewardship: A Record of Accomplishment,” NEMA Lamp Section, October 2004.

Lisa Brosseau, ScD, CIH
Associate Professor
University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences

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