Mercury in Fluorescent Lighting: Unnecessary Health Risks & Actionable Solutions

This report outlines the health risks and environmental impacts of fluorescent lighting, highlights the many compelling advantages of transitioning to LED alternatives, and gives actionable solutions to phase out mercury-added lamps in the United States.

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Alicia Culver, Responsible Purchasing Network; Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project; Peter Maxson, Expert to UNEP on mercury issues, Concorde East/West Sprl

With the tremendous advances in LED technology during the past decade, there’s no reason to continue using fluorescent lighting. Ana Maria Carreño
Senior Manager

Accelerating the Phase Out of Toxic, Mercury-Containing Lighting

All fluorescent lighting contains mercury. Mercury is highly toxic to humans, which is why the World Health Organization lists it among the top 10 chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern. In the past, fluorescents were promoted as an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent and halogen lamps, and the risks associated with mercury in fluorescents were tolerated as a necessary trade-off.

Today, thanks to major advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology, mercury-free LED lamps can cost-effectively replace fluorescents in virtually all applications. In addition, LEDs last longer than fluorescent lamps, and due to their lower energy consumption, their use results in less mercury and other harmful air pollutants released from coal-burning power plants.

The report details:

  • Health risks to those exposed to mercury, especially populations that are more vulnerable, such as pregnant people and their unborn babies, infants and young children, communities of color, and those living in low-income neighborhoods
  • Health risks to workers exposed to mercury when lamps break during the manufacturing, installation, recycling, and disposal of fluorescent lamps
  • Environmental hazards posed by the release of mercury in fluorescent lighting
  • Benefits of transitioning to LED lighting, now considered the most cost-effective and reliable lighting option in the U.S. marketplace

Mercury in Fluorescent Lighting: Unnecessary Health Risks and Actionable Solutions was published by the Clean Lighting Coalition in partnership with the Mercury Policy Project and the Responsible Purchasing Network. The report was co-published by the following groups: Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Eco-Healthy Child Care, the Children’s Environmental Health Network, Clean Water Action and Ecology Center.

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