Lighten my darkness

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for thumb_chapman_pincher.gifMy first job was a ‘sparks’ in a theatre complex. Every Monday I walked round the building doing the ‘lamp round’ – checking for lamps that had blown (Bulbs, I was taught, are something you put in the ground). Different lamps had a different life, by in large they lasted the x hours they were rated for.

At home and in my workshop I’ve been moving over to ‘energy efficiency’ lamps. However, most (made in China and elsewhere) don’t last nearly as long at they claim. So the cost of replacement far outstrips the energy saving (notwithstanding the carbon emissions of getting them here).

While I don’t’ like the esthetic of the radiated light spectrum of the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) I’m incandescent with rage that the traditional light globe being phased out. My advice — stock up while stocks last.

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The often overlooked fact about "energy saving' lightbulbs is the toxicity of many of the component parts. Each contains enough mercury to be an officially recognised health-threat for a period of 15 minutes after breach of the glass envelope. The phosphors which actually provide the light (the mercury vapour emits invisible UV), are often platinocyanides, delightful heavy-metal and cyanide compounds. Add to this the industrial processes required to produce the capacitors (tantalum bead, quite often, tantalum being another toxic metal), and the PCB upon which the whole affair is mounted, and you have a heady cocktail of persistent toxins and carcinogens. That's just the manufacture. What do you do with the dud/dead ones? Well, you really should dispose of them at an industrial site,but most will simply throw them in the bin. This means the release of mercury vapour when they inevitably smash as the careful refuse collectors hurl the contents of your bin into the crushing mechanism at the back of their truck. Then of course, is the issue of the almost indestructible epoxy compounds which form the basis of the PCB (printed circuit board). Then, often, there is an extra glass envelope surrounding the fluorescent tube itself, sometimes with a further layer of protective plastic film, usually silicone-based. Green, eh? That's before you even consider the extra energy and resources required for manufacture. The whole thing is a con. It has been possible for decades to produce cold-cathode gas-discharge lighting of any colour range. How do you think all thise Keep Left signs are illuminated?