Wal-Mart, Manufacturers to Lower Mercury Content in CFLs


When it comes to affordable energy-efficient lighting solutions, compact fluorescent bulbs clearly shine. The recent uptick in debate about their mercury content, even when overblown, may have dimmed the enthusiasm of some consumers, however. On Thursday, Wal-Mart announced that it has been working with manufacturers to lower the mercury content in all CFLS that it sells. According to the Houston Chronicle and the company's press release, Wal-Mart partnered with GE, Royal Philips, Osram Sylvania and Lights of America to create CFLs that contain mercury in amounts lower then the 5 mg standard set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) earlier this year. Specifically,

  • GE committed to reduce mercury in its CFLs by "up to 50 percent from NEMA levels in new products, while maintaining the excellent light quality and long life that GE customers expect."
  • Osram Sylvania committed to 4 mg or less mercury in all of its CFLS by the end of 2007, and 2.5 mg or less by the end of 2008.
  • Lights of America has also committed to a reduction of up to 50%, and claims that it has developed a new technology (in light of Wal-Mart's standards) that uses "a different metal alloy technology that improves bulb performance while requiring less mercury per bulb." The company expects that by year's end, none of its CFLs will contain more than 2 mg of mercury.
  • Philips' use of pellet dosing instead of liquid mercury already puts their bulbs (25 watts or less) at 40 to 60 percent below the NEMA standard, but the company committed to continue to look for ways to lower the amount of the substance.
With its stated goal of selling 100 million CFLs in a year's time, Wal-Mart clearly had to get on top of the mercury issue. In addition to announcing its own plans, it also included EPA statistics in its release that show an incandescent bulb powered on coal-generated electricity creates 13.6 mg of mercury emissions, while a CFL will create only 3.3 mg. Even when the mercury in the bulb itself is added in, CFLs win on the amounts of this heavy metal potentially released into the environment.

We've got to give the company credit again: it could've simply released the EPA statistics to put the mercury issue into perspective. For those still wondering how to safely dispose of burned out CFLs, Lamprecycle.org provides a list of US and Canadian companies that accept bulbs with mercury for recycling. Maybe Wal-Mart can also help get the word out on this... ::Houston Chronicle via linton at Hugg and PR Newswire