Light has always fascinated and delighted me. I love to gaze at sun-light, moon-light, and star-light. And it’s always interesting to see the endless shades of color produced by the interplay of those space bodies and the atmosphere. For indoor lighting, I enjoy playing with colored bulbs, string lights, incandescent bulbs- with varying types of shades to blunt or direct the light- and candles to create the ambience that I am looking for.
The garish and headache-inducing neon lights of big cities are something I find distasteful but tolerable in small doses. However, the recent development, introduction, sale and forced acceptance of compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, has massively degraded our world of light. These fluorescent lights now illuminate our commons, our streets, public buildings, libraries, schools, offices and homes.
Under the guise of ‘environmentalism’ and ‘going green’, governments around the world, as well as trans-governmental bodies such as the EU, have not only encouraged the transition to CFLs, but have actually mandated them, going so far as to ban the manufacture, importation and sale of incandescent bulbs.
CFLs suck. Any way you look at them, they are deficient and inferior to the safe, reliable and inexpensive incandescent bulbs developed over a hundred years ago by Thomas Edison’s team of scientists.
They cost more- much more. The initial cost at the cash register is 4 to 5x what an old style bulb costs, but the so-called experts tell people not to sweat it, because these magical lights will recoup your costs in energy savings. This is bogus science and the studies they came up with to ‘prove’ this were based on the bulbs operating at a steady state temperature of 105 degrees, which actually never happens. Furthermore, they take much more energy to produce than standard bulbs.
They are dangerous. Whereas old incandescent bulbs are biologically inert and safe to dispose of, CFLs contain mercury, one of the most dangerous substances known to human health, especially in regards to its effects on the brain. Mercury is a known neurotoxin. We have finally gotten rid of mercury thermometers in our hospitals and homes, but now we are introducing vast quantities of mercury into the environment through the use of these bulbs!! And not just mercury liquid, but mercury vapor which is even more dangerous as it can be easily inhaled after a bulb breaks. Whether these bulbs break in someone’s home and contaminate the air, or end up in a landfill and contaminate our groundwater, the end result is a further poisoning of our environment.
CFLs are dangerous in other ways. They emit high levels of UVC radiation which penetrate the glass from the inner bulb into the space around it, affecting users close by and increasing their chances for developing skin cancer and eye problems. Also, CFLs emit elevated levels of blue wavelength light, thereby ‘fooling’ our brain and pineal gland to think that it is still daylight and hence to continue producing serotonin and delay producing melatonin, our nighttime sleep hormone and free-radical killing ally.
Once again, we see how governments can so easily fool the public with a bit of sham science (with the requisite ‘experts’ in white coats) a massive advertising and propaganda campaign and a bit of environmental ‘guilt’ thrown in for good measure. The public willingly adopts a new technology to replace the old, which wasn’t broken to begin with, at a larger cost to our health and the environment. This is criminal activity and the fact that so few environmentalists and organizations have been silent on this issue speaks volumes about where their priorities are.
Having lived in a number of countries over the last 3 years which have completed the transition to CFLs, I have seen the future, and it’s ugly. Where I live now in Southeast Asia, incandescents can only be found in a few random lighting specialty shops around the city. An employee has to reach under the counter to pull out a dusty bulb which he happily sells to oddballs like myself to get rid of them. The situation is now the same in South America.
If you live in a house that was built ten years ago, you are lucky as incandescents can still be used in the light sockets. However, new buildings and houses are constructed with light fixtures which can only accommodate the narrower profile of a CFL. Changing back to an old bulb will be impossible.
I’m continually amazed at the poor quality of indoor light which societies now take for granted. The warm, yellow light of incandescents is in stark contrast to the cold, blue light of CFLs , which not only emit dangerous light, but also emit ugly light. The light cast off by these CFLs does an awful job of illuminating a space. Notice how quickly light dissipates from even a high-powered CFL. When they are mounted high up on a ceiling or wall, as they often are, very little light reaches down near ground level where people read and converse.
While one can stare without difficulty at an incandescent, just looking for a few short seconds at a CFL hurts the eyes. No wonder I never see anyone reading under a CFL bulb. The light doesn’t ‘encourage’ that type of behavior, and maybe that’s the plan.
I used to believe that artists and spiritual seekers would be the ones to notice the horrible effects of these bulbs and lead the fight against them. Sensitive souls have a greater awareness of light, color, nuance, and shade, right? A few years ago I traveled to Brazil and was fortunate to be able to spend a few days in Olinda, a small city north of Recife renowned for its artistic culture and abundance of art galleries. As I leisurely walked along the cobblestoned streets peeking inside the art galleries, all the artists hard at work on their paintings were sitting under a CFL bulb. So much for artists…. And the monks and priests? Spend an evening in Asia looking around the various temples and pagodas to see how much they care about natural light. Many pagodas are now covered in gaudy neon light. If you drive by it quickly, you might think you are looking at a discotheque.
Let’s also not forget how ugly CFLs are even when not turned on. Their antennae like shape suggest that they are perhaps receiving something from the atmosphere of which we are not aware. And cleaning the dust off of them? Forget it. Bring along a box of q tips and a lot of patience.
With all the massive environmental problems facing our planet, governments never can agree on any comprehensive plan for nuclear waste, forest destruction, plastic in the oceans or anything else for that matter. But somehow, nations have all agreed that throwing away our old light bulbs and adopting CFLs will be an environmental boon with no adverse effects? Something doesn’t smell right here. Stock up on your old Edison bulbs and fight this big brother nonsense.