California joins movement to phase out mercury lamps

In the United States, phase-outs of fluorescent lamps are gaining momentum. In September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 2208. Written by Ash Kalra and Senator Josh Becker, AB 2208 will ban sales of compact fluorescent light bulbs containing mercury in 2024 and ban sales of lamps linear and pin-type compact fluorescent lamps in 2025.

By banning the sale of fluorescent lamps, California is expanding existing legislation to protect consumers from toxic mercury while accelerating its transition to LEDs. California will reap significant financial benefits from the move – because LEDs use half the electricity of fluorescents, retrofitting a small office could save $6,000 over the life of a lamp typical LED, while a school could save up to $24,000. LEDs also reduce replacement costs and waste because they last 2-3 times longer than fluorescents, and there’s no need to pay for expensive hazardous waste disposal.

Additionally, recent market research found that by 2030, AB 2208 will have helped California save more than $1 billion a year on its electricity bills, achieve annual electricity savings of approximately 5,600 GWh and avoid the release of 950,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. This decision will also benefit the local LED industry; The state imports 100% of its fluorescent bulbs, but there are more than 50 California-based LED lighting companies that employ local people to design and produce cleaner, more efficient lighting.

And since LEDs use half the power of fluorescent lights, passing the law will also free up electricity on the grid, at a time when California faces power shortages and the threat of blackouts. of electricity.

Move forward to mitigate toxins

All fluorescent lights contain mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin listed as one of the top ten chemicals of public health concern by the World Health Organization. When a fluorescent light bulb breaks, it releases its mercury into the environment, creating an exposure risk for anyone in the area, especially pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children. The amount of mercury per light bulb may seem low — a single 4-foot fluorescent tube can contain 10 mg of mercury — but that’s enough to contaminate 5,000 liters of water.

John Bouchard, senior leader of Teamsters Local 350, expressed the organization’s support for AB 2208: “Our members deal with waste and recycling materials on a daily basis, potentially exposing them to many risks. Exposure to mercury from broken fluorescent lamps is an invisible yet very dangerous health hazard.

Fluorescent bulbs are classified as hazardous waste and it is illegal in California to dispose of them in the trash. California has an infrastructure for collecting household hazardous waste, but lack of convenience and awareness results in most light bulbs being improperly discarded in the trash or recycling streams. Unfortunately, fragile lamps break easily in the process and contaminate municipal waste streams, polluting our soil and water. Chuck Helget of Republic Services, a waste management company, said, “We support eliminating mercury from our homes and waste streams. AB 2208 will protect Californians, including our own employees who currently deal with these hazardous products on a daily basis. »

AB 2208 represents a triple win for California. It is very cost effective, reduces CO2 emissions and removes a key source of toxic mercury from the waste stream. Other states can achieve the same benefits by passing similar legislation to remove toxic fluorescent lamps from their markets. By enacting AB 2208, California is leading the nation in saying goodbye to fluorescents. We urge other states to contact the National Stewardship Action Council or the Clean Lighting Coalition (CLiC) if they would like information and assistance in achieving the same results.

Learn more about lamp regulations and policy

Interest groups call on the state of Vermont to ban the sale of fluorescent lamps containing mercury

COMMENT: Philips/Signify should support the proposed African Lighting Amendment to the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Signify addresses the Minamata Convention’s position on transitioning to mercury-free lighting

Revised European regulations pave the way for stricter requirements for light sources

Meet our experts

HEIDI SANBORN and JORDAN WELLS represent the National Stewardship Action Council, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that advocates for a circular and equitable economy across the United States

Sanborn is the founding director of the National Stewardship Action Council. With over 30 years of experience as a leader in the solid waste industry, she is an expert in extended producer responsibility and product stewardship. Sanborn also represents Ward 7 on the Sacramento Utility District Board. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree in government and nonprofit management from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.

As Special Projects Manager at NSAC, Wells assists the Executive Director with communications, management and organizational growth. She also participates in coalitions such as the American Sustainable Business Council’s Sustainable Packaging Task Force. Wells earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainability from San Diego State University and studied abroad at the University of Oxford, and she received the SDSU Department of Sustainability’s Outstanding Graduate Award on the basis of his GPA and extracurricular activities.

MICHAEL SCHOLAND, LC is the evidence base and European lead for the Clean Lighting Coalition, a global partnership launched to capture the health and environmental benefits of phasing out mercury-based lighting. He is also a Senior Advisor at CLASP, an NGO that develops programs and supports policies to mitigate climate change and expand access to efficient appliances and equipment.

Scholand is certified in lighting by the NCQLP and has over 20 years of experience in energy efficiency initiatives. He holds a double-major bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and environmental studies and a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, both from Tufts University.


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