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It was just a brief sound byte about 34 reports received by the CPSC of an unsafe product broadcast over one of the TV news programs. The news byte was about Compact Fluorescent Lamps or lights (a.k.a. CFLs) which have been touted the past few years as one way to go green and save energy and money at the same time when lighting our homes. A photo flashed across the screen of one of the rather funny-looking coiled bulbs which had melted at its base.

Unfortunately, since last March, 34 reports have been submitted to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about CFLs smoking or melting! CFLs are advertised as real energy savers, they use about one fifth of the power of regular lightbulbs and last anywhere from six to ten times as long. But, according to various news sources, since the U.S. CPSC launched its consumer safety database earlier this year, there have been 34 reports of smoke or a burning odor associated with the CFLs and four reports of fire.

Fires caused by "old fashioned" incandescent bulbs are practically non-existent according to the engineers at Consumer Reports. They tested some 77 models of the CFLs and didn’t find any smoke or fire, however, CR’s readers had complained about smoke associated with the CFLs and the glass tube melting at its base.

A December 26 article in the online version of MassLive, by Stan Freeman, noted that an astounding 270+ million CFLs were sold in 2009. http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/cfls_compact_fluorescent_lamps.html One can only surmise that the sales in 2010 and 2011 were at least that extensive. There have been at least four reports of fires occurring associated with the CFLs, so we will probably be hearing more about the safety of CFLs in the future.

In October 2010, the CPSC announced a recall of the Trisonic brand CFLs which had been sold in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, manufactured in and imported from China, and were believed to be responsible for two of the four fire reports. Again, here we go with another product manufactured in China and sold by a U.S. distributor… .

Fire is not the sole concern involving these bulbs, they also contain mercury vapor. Mercury is poisonous to humans.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Edmund Contoski

    You should read the comprehensive report on CFLs published by the Science and Public Policy Institute:

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/cfl_fires.pdf

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