Mercury In Lighting Products, What gives?

Mercury In Lighting Products, What gives?

By Michael Roberts

Almost all modern lighting technologies depend on using mercury inside the lamp envelope for operation. When considering the environmental impact of the mercury in lighting, we must take three major factors into consideration:

• The type of mercury (solid or liquid) which is present in the lamps,
• The amount of mercury present in a particular type of lamp, and
• The lifespan of the lamp which will determine the amount of mercury used per hour of operation.

Liquid mercury, which is the most common form of mercury used in lighting, represents the greatest hazard. If a lamp is broken, the mercury can find its way into cracks in concrete flooring or into spaces in other floor coverings. Over time, the volatile liquid mercury will evaporate into the atmosphere causing a local “hot spot” of low-level contamination. The more liquid mercury present in a lamp, the longer the resulting contamination will last.

Mercury can be compounded, with other metals, into a solid form called an amalgam. This is the type of mercury used in induction lamps. It is similar to the once widely used “silver” amalgam used in dental fillings. The solid form of mercury poses much less of an environmental problem than liquid mercury. The small slug of amalgam can easily be recovered (always wear disposable gloves) in the case of induction lamp breakage and therefore can be disposed of properly with little or no risk of creating a locally contaminated area. The solid mercury amalgam is also simpler to recover for recycling at end of lamp life.

Environmental Facts Relating to Mercury and Light Bulb Recycling: Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste. In 1992, mercury-containing lamps were added to the United States' Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of hazardous substances. (The EPA's regulatory threshold of 2 mg./litre is usually exceeded by mercury-containing lamps). The Mercury from one fluorescent bulb can pollute 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels for drinking. “Mercury Study Report to Congress”- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); December 1997

Mercury amalgam for expired Induction lamps, when kept separate from other waste, can be recycled safely. The mercury can be recovered from amalgam waste through a distillation process and then reused in new products. If amalgam waste ends up in an incinerated waste stream, the mercury can be released to the environment due to the high temperatures used in the incineration process. Increasingly, local communities are enacting restrictions on the incineration of wastes containing mercury.

Mercury Utilization

The amount of mercury by lamp type and manufacturer varies as we can see from this table:

The chart below puts this information into visual form for the most common types of industrial, commercial and retail lighting technologies:

Induction Lighting Fixtures Reduce Environmental Impact

The mercury contained in Induction lights is in solid amalgam form, versus the highly volatile liquid mercury found in other lighting technologies and is similar to the type used for modern dental fillings. Magnetic Induction lights impact mercury reduction with 3 different product features:

      • Less mercury content per lamp than most commercial lamps
• Solid amalgam mercury compared to the more volatile liquid mercury in most lamps
• Long 100,000 hours lamp life compared with all other commercial lamps

Depending on the lamp type, an Induction lamp will add 5-40 times less mercury to landfills over the duration of the light’s 100,000 hour lifespan.  Contact us for more information!

May 13th 2024 Induction Lighting Fixtures

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