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Compact Fluorescent Lights - Potential Fire and Mercury Hazards

Feb 2, 2017
Compact Fluorescent Light, Potential Fire & Mercury Hazards

For several years, compact fluorescent lights, also known as CFLs, have been on the market and have been slowly accepted by the general public. However, there has been concern recently that some CFLs are prone when they reach the end of their lives, to explode and potentially cause a fire.

Apparently, most CFLs get dimmer as they "enter failure mode" and then expire, with some emitting a popping sound similar to the noise made by an incandescent bulb when it goes out. However, in some cases, capacitors, resistors, or other electronic components located in the CFL's ballast may malfunction and make a slight sizzling sound accompanied by odor or smoke.

Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been affected by defective products.

Mercury Content and Potentially Harmful Effects

Mercury Content and Potentially Harmful Effects

Compact fluorescent bulbs have been promoted as a green alternative to incandescent bulbs that use 70 percent less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs. Mercury is an element that is found naturally. Mercury pollution is in the air, water, and other parts of the environment. At this time, coal burning power plants are one of the largest causes of mercury pollution. It is a chemical that is known to be harmful to humans and other forms of life.

The bulbs are made with mercury and in case of the bulb's exploding, the contents must be disposed of with care. Mercury is a dangerously significant source of environmental contamination and a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology suggested that mercury-containing products accounted for an estimated 32 percent of mercury releases to the air, two percent to land, and four percent to water, according to Alexis Cain, an EPA environmental scientist and lead author to the study.

Mercury is a potent, developmental neurotoxin that can damage the brain, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to mercury's toxic effects. Even at minimal levels, mercury is capable of causing numerous health problems including impairing motor function and cognitive ability. Higher or prolonged exposure may result in more severe health problems.

High levels of mercury can harm the heart, brain, kidneys, lungs and immune system. Mercury can also harm a developing fetus if the mother is exposed to high levels. Mercury also accumulates in fish. For some time, it has been suggested to limit certain types of fish due to mercury levels. Questions have also arisen concerning silver dental fillings that contain mercury. Some individuals actually have those filling removed to be replaced with a different material that does not contain mercury. Mercury has for some time been known to be toxic to humans and may potentially be seriously harmful to health and well-being.

There are increasingly significant doubts concerning the impact of mercury release into the environment. CFLs each contain an average of five milligrams of mercury. Although it sounds like a miniscule amount, there is enough mercury in just one fluorescent light bulb to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water, according to FOX News. With all its positive attributes regarding the environment, CFLs are nonetheless, introducing a toxic chemical into our homes and workplaces.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends the use of CFLs, but stresses handling the products with care. Spokesman Elias Rodriguez suggests placing the expired bulbs in two plastic bags before throwing them away or discarding them at recycling centers. The disposal of mercury containing products has long been the subject of public debate. For several years, programs have been initiated to eliminate mercury in thermometers as well as to discontinue its use in CFLs.

Potential Hazards Including Fire

Many of the fires involving CFLs are blamed for misuse of CFL bulbs such as, using them in recessed lighting, dimmers, or in track lighting. However, some have been reported to be used in normal light sockets.

A firm based with its head office in Montreal, manufactures its light bulbs in China. In October 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of the Chinese-manufactured Trisonic Brand of CFL bulbs due to "four reports of incidents, including two fires that resulted in minor property damage."

For the time being, LED bulbs appear to be a safer alternative to CFL bulbs.

Legal Information and Advice Regarding Consumer Products

Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm with extensive experience in product liability litigation. The firm offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).


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