Today begins the start of the CFL season - the great Canadian Football League. Go Lions!
But today, I also thought about the other CFL's, Compact Fluorescent Lamps. On January 1, the British Columbia government frogstepped their constituents into accepting a program to phase out incandescent lightbulbs, arguably one of the most useful and elegant inventions of all time, in favour of CFL's. Although it is not completely impossible to buy a normal incandescent light bulb here in BC, it is not easy either.
The idea behind the CFL is that it is supposed to last longer and use less energy than an incandescent bulb. However, whereas an incandescent bulb contains a bit of metal and some glass, the CFL requires electronic components and ballast made with toxic mercury to operate. A CFL (as any other fluorescent fixture) needs to be disposed of safely in a controlled environment. Typically, a negative-pressure chamber is used to prevent the escape of mercury fumes.
I've drawn a diagram of the type of safety equipment that should be worn when disposing of a light bulb. The fellow on the left is working on recycling incandescent bulbs, while the worker on the right takes care of CFL's:
I've coloured the safety equipment in yellow. When disposing of glass for recycling, thick protective gloves and eye goggles should be worn. When disposing of mercury, you will need the full body protection of at least a Level C hazmat suit. I did not illustrate the negative-pressure chamber for the glass crusher that is supposed to prevent mercury from escaping into the environment.
The overwhelming majority of CFL's are produced in China and India, where workers are not necessarily required to wear protective clothing while either assembling or disassembling CFL's for our market. They'd probably be lucky just to get the gloves and goggles.
For another of my rants against the CFL (the bulb, not the league), please check out JSVB Post #279 by clicking here.