Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why Do Fluorescent Lamps Need Mercury?

Mercury is an essential component of energy-efficient fluorescent lamps, allowing them to produce light and provide a longer life in comparison to incandescent bulbs. A typical fluorescent lamp is composed of a phosphor coated glass tube with electrodes located at either end. The tube contains mercury, of which only a very small amount is in vapor form. When a voltage is applied, the electrodes energize the mercury vapor, causing it to emit ultraviolet (UV) energy. The phosphor coating absorbs the UV energy, causing the phosphor to fluoresce and emit visible light.(1)

The amount of mercury required is very small, typically measured in milligrams, and varies by lamp type, year of manufacture, manufacturing plant and manufacturer. Although it is a necessary component, mercury from fluorescent lamps still poses significant health and environmental issues, and lamps should be properly stored, transported and recycled in a packaging configuration proven to effectively contain mercury vapor.

1. “Fluorescent and other Mercury-Containing Lamps and the Environment,” NEMA, March 2005.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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