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Issue 34
March , 2012
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Glowing mercury, growing panic

Ashpreet Sethi
Source: Deccan Herald, Date: January , 2012

New Delhi, Jan 31, 2012: Environmentalists say mercury in tube-lights and other fluorescent bulbs produced in India is exceeding the safe limit and there is no regulatory body to check the same.

The mercury content in Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) has risen to six times more than the internationally recommended average content.

Most of the CFLs are thrown into a water body and broken into pieces which releases the mercury in the air.

“This can lead to health hazards such as kidney failure and paralysis and harm the ecological balance as well. We need to push for standards as there is no regulated disposal mechanism for households and industries, which is polluting the air and surrounding water bodies. Moreover, India does not have a standardised labelling pattern,” said Rajeev Betne, senior programme co-ordinator with Toxics Link, Delhi.

Experts suggest that the government should act immediately as the growing CFL market has already replaced more than 80 per cent of the yellow bulbs or incandescent lamps (ICL) market in India.

Also, India imports almost 35 per cent of CFLs from China and Malaysia every year to meet the over growing domestic demand.

Research result

A study done by Toxic Links in September 2011, had highlighted that CFLs manufactured in India of about 22 miligram when the international standards suggest 1.5 miligram per bulb.

The study was conducted on a sample of 22 fluorescent bulbs from four different brands. A huge variation was observed in the content of mercury in the same range of bulbs within the same brand.

“This indicates that there is no control or limitation on the machine instilling mercury in these bulbs,” added Betne.

Moreover, many of fluorescent bulbs do not last longer than one year because of high mercury levels.

Future threats

According to estimates, 400 million CFL units will be operational beginning 2012 which can cause more harm to the environment if the mercury content remains unregulated. However, experts are hopeful that a regulation will be soon in place.

“The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is in the process of finalising the standards for checking the mercury levels in CFLs. The standards will bring down the mercury level to 5 miligram per bulb,” said Sunil Pandey, an environmentalist with the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Delhi.

Brands such as Philips and GE should be preferred over locally produced CLFs till regulations are gazetted on paper as brands limit the mercury content to a great extent, he added.

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