Product Defect Lawsuit Over Compact Florescent Lights. Parker Waichman LLP is investigating possible product defect lawsuits involving Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs), also known as Compact Florescent Lamps. CFLs are marketed as an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent light bulbs. These new light bulbs have also prompted safety concerns, following reports that they may allegedly explode and pose a fire hazard. CFLs contain mercury, which may cause serious problems in people who are exposed to the heavy metal.
CFLs are designed with a ballast that is used to regulate current to the lamp. Allegedly, the fire hazard stems from degradation of the bulb and subsequently the ballast; the ballast allegedly overheats, causing the CFL to burn out. These light bulbs contain features that would, under ideal conditions, prevent fire hazards; however, this notion mat be theoretical, as manufacturing defects may cause CFLs to explode and cause fires.
CFLs are designed so that, when the ballast overheats, a fuse-like component called the Voltage Dependent Resister (VDR) opens and shuts down the circuit. This is the normal and intended mode of failure for CFLs. When this occurs, the bulb generates heat and, often, a small amount of smoke and a burning smell. The CFL contains the VDR, alongside fire-inhibiting chemicals in the bulb house, to prevent a fire hazard.
Although a product is designed to be safe in theory, this does not necessarily mean that the product is safe in a real-world setting. The CFL is supposedly designed to prevent fire hazards, but these bulbs may still explode due to manufacturing or design defects. If the ballast is defective, the bulb may explode and cause a fire.
In May 2014, WDTN 2 News reported safety concerns associated with CFLs. A consumer told the TV station, "We’re popping this into our lamp like an ordinary light bulb and it’s not. It has its problems and people should know about them…. I can smell ozone, I can smell burning plastic and a little bit of hot ceramic and I’m used to those odors from my testing days," the man added.
Other media outlets have shared stories from consumers who expressed concerns over their CFL bulbs. In January 2015, CBC News reported that one homeowner was worried that the bulbs burned out with smoke and a spark. "Smoke was basically being forced out, almost like steam out of here. It was quite a plume, almost coming a foot or so, and I could see the orange glow and there was sparks coming out and I got it shut off pretty quick," he said. "This is the second one that’s done this to me. There was one about 10 years ago."
In 2011, The Daily Mail reported that, according to experts, CFLs are "a fire hazard that could burn down your home."
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing clients in product liability lawsuits. The firm is investigating possible CFL product defect lawsuits.
CFLs and Mercury
Consumers with CFLs in their homes should be aware that the bulbs contain mercury; therefore, it is important to take the right precautions if you must handle a shattered bulb. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the bulb and wash your hands after handlng. The bulb may release mercury vapors when shattered, posing an inhalation risk.
Mercury is a naturally-occurring element present in fish, as well as other products. Mercury is also a neurotoxin, meaning it is hazardous to neurons and nervous system tissue. Exposure to mercury may impair the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.
There are three types of mercury: methylmercury, elemental mercury, and other mercury compounds (inorganic and organic). In pregnant women, exposure to methylmercury may affect the developing nervous system of the fetus.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signs of mercury exposure may "be very severe, subtle, or may not occur at all" depending on various factors.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning may vary based on which type you have been exposed to. According to Medicine.net, signs of methylmercury poisoning may include: Peripheral vision impairment; a "pins and needles" feeling in the body; poor coordination; problems with speech, hearing and walking; and muscle weakness.
Elemental mercury is mostly toxic when inhaled, or breathed in as a vapor. Individuals exposed to elemental mercury may experience: Tremors, emotional changes, insomnia (inability to sleep), weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching, headaches, cognitive impairment, sensation disturbances, and changes in nerve responses.