Whose Bright Idea was This?

There’s an old story of a man  who was out walking late at night and saw an individual searching for something near a lamp post. Approaching, he asked the person what they were looking for.  The guy, without raising his head, replied, “My watch”. The man asked, “Well, precisely where were you standing when you dropped it?” Continuing his search, the fella pointed a finger in the distance and said, “Over there somewhere.” Incredulous, the man said, “Well then sir, why are you searching for it here?” Finally looking up in frustration and meeting the man’s gaze, the searcher  testily replied, “Because sir, the light is better here!”

Now you may not know it, but as of January 1, 2014, the lightbulb you’ve been using all of your life will no longer be available for purchase in Canada.  That’s right,  the manufacturing or importing or selling of the incandescent light will be illegal in this country.  And don’t think you can just skip across the border and pick up some bulbs there, for the same ban is going into effect in the United States in 2016 (and remember, until then, it’ll be illegal to bring those kinds of light bulbs back into Canada).  What’s behind all of this?  It’s because you and I are not buying enough of the much-more efficient but much-more expensive twistie bulbs (called CFL for contained flourescent light). And so Ottawa has determined that we are going to make the switch, whether we want to or not.  But whatever you do, don’t drop the new bulb!

Why?  Unlike the old bulbs, the new ones have a hidden danger inside – it is mercury, one of the most poisonous substances on earth.  Exposure to this  neurotoxin can cause long-term physical damage. (Manufacturers are aware of this and are trying to come up with safer designs.)  In the meantime, what do you do if one of these bulbs cracks or breaks?  Health Canada says:

Before Cleanup – All people and pets should immediately leave the area … The room should be aired out for 10-15 minutes by opening a window or door …  If you have a forced-air heating or cooling system, it should be turned off …  The following clean-up materials should then be collected: stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes for hard surfaces, and an airtight container, such as a glass jar with a metal lid or a resealable plastic freezer bag.

During Cleanup – Do not vacuum unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken, as doing so may spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor … Thoroughly scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.  Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder … Place all cleaning materials and bulb debris in the glass jar or freezer  bag

After Cleanup – Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including any vacuum cleaner bags used, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.  Do not leave any bulb fragments or cleanup articles in the house.

The bottom line?  As well-intentioned as people may be, to quote Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green.”