Light Bulb Lunacy
In another of its crazy
attempts to `save the planet' and prove itself to be stuffed full of
environmentally-conscious bureaucrats and politicians, the EU has decided to ban
the sale of traditional incandescent light bulbs - the ones which have the
tungsten filaments which dangle uselessly when the bulb has blown (or been
dropped). Banning our old-fashioned light bulbs will, they seem to think, help
stamp out global warming and save the planet.
We will be forced to
replace our old-fashioned light bulbs with new compact fluorescent bulbs (known
as CFLs to the average acronym-happy eurocrat). These, they claim, use only a
fifth of the energy needed by the shortly-to-be-made-illegal bulbs.
There are, inevitably, a few problems.
First, according to the
UK's own Government the immediate cost of this latest absurdity is likely to be
around £3 billion. (At a time when we need every spare billion we can
Second, the lighting produced by the new bulbs will be so dim that
most people won't be able to read by them. Angela Merkel, the German politician
who put forward the proposal that we should all use these new bulbs has admitted
that because the `energy-saving' bulbs she uses in her flat take some time to
warm up she often has `a bit of a problem' when she is looking for something she
has `dropped on the carpet'. The result will be lots more people falling over
and breaking limbs and lots more people suffering from headaches. The
consequence will be that many people will simply buy more lamps and use two or
three bulbs where they previously used one bulb.
Third, the new bulbs
must be kept switched on for far longer if they are to run efficiently. That
means using up more energy.
Fourth, the new bulbs are much heavier than
old-fashioned bulbs. This means that they will take more energy to transport.
Lorries carrying them around the EU will use up more petrol.
new bulbs are much uglier than the old ones. They are also larger. They won't
fit into all light fittings. So vast numbers of perfectly good light fittings
will probably have to be thrown away.
Sixth, the new bulbs cost up to 20
times as much as the old bulbs. Vastly overpaid eurocrats probably won't care.
Ordinary people will notice a huge rise in the cost of their bulbs bill.
Seventh, the CFL lightbulbs produce a much harsher, less relaxing light.
Moreover, they often don't produce a nice, steady light (like an incandescent
bulb) but flicker. They flicker at 50 times a second. If you try to read with
one of the new bulbs there is a chance that your head will start to swim. Will
the new bulbs trigger fits? I have no idea but I wouldn't bet against it. They
will, at least, cause `discomfort'. It seems pretty certain that the new
EU-approved bulbs will cause migraines and dizziness.
they flicker the new bulbs can make fast moving machine parts look stationary.
How many limbs will be lost as a result of this? Your guess is as good as mine,
and since I'm a qualified doctor my guess is probably better than any guess made
by an EU eurocrat.
Ninth, normal CFLs cannot be used with dimmer
switches or electronically triggered security lights. Dimmer switches and
electronically triggered security lights will have to be thrown away - wasting
vast amounts of energy.
Tenth, the EU-approved bulbs cannot be used in
ovens, freezers or microwave ovens because they don't work if the temperature is
too low or too high. So, no more bulbs in ovens, freezers or microwave
Eleventh, the new allegedly low energy bulbs take ten times as
much energy to manufacture as the old bulbs. You, unlike the eurocrats, may
consider this rather significant.
Twelfth, according to the British
Government, less than half of all the light fittings currently installed in
British homes will take CFLs. So 24 million homeowners will, between them, have
to throw out hundreds of millions of light fittings. The redundant light
fittings will, of course, have to be replaced with new light fittings. The old
light fittings will have to be thrown away. A new waste mountain will be
Thirteenth, CFLs need more ventilation than standard bulbs and
so cannot be used in any enclosed light fitting.
EU-approved light bulbs use toxic materials including mercury vapour. This is a
bit of a problem because the EU has banned products containing mercury vapour
from landfill sites. Used CFLs will, therefore, have to be collected and
disposed of separately. Experts advise that you telephone your local sanitation
or refuse department if you wish to dispose of a used CFL bulb. The British
Government has admitted that the bulbs contain mercury which is a deadly poison
and has warned: `If a low-energy bulb is smashed, the room needs to be vacated
for at least 15 minutes. A vacuum cleaner should not be used to clear up the
debris, and care taken not to inhale the dust. Use rubber gloves, and put the
broken bulb into a sealed plastic bag, which should be taken to the local
council for disposal. Unbroken used bulbs can be taken back to the retailer if
the owner is a member of the Distributor Takeback Scheme. Otherwise, many local
waste disposal sites now have the facilities to safely collect and dispose of
old bulbs. But, this advice is not printed on the packaging.' You will, of
course, probably have to drive to the disposal site (which will take up fuel and
energy as well as time). You will have to do this every time a bulb is broken.
There will almost certainly be a disposal charge because getting rid of
dangerous light bulbs without being able to bury them will be quite a problem.
The EU will doubtless look into this problem at some time in the future. (The
eurocrats recognise that mercury can be nasty stuff. They want to ban barometers
which contain mercury.)
Fifteenth, the more CFLs are turned on and off
the shorter their life will be. To work at their best CFLs must be kept on
pretty well continuously. This means that if you are going to get the best out
of your new EU-approved light bulb you will have to get used to sleeping with
the light on. (If you don't keep your CFLs turned on permanently your very
expensive light bulbs will need replacing very often and the energy they use
will be pretty much the same as the energy used by an incandescent light
Sixteenth, the new light bulbs which the EU is forcing us to use
will aggravate a variety of health problems. Patients with lupus, an auto-immune
disease, will suffer from many symptoms, including pain. Patients with light
sensitive disorders will suffer more. The new bulbs could trigger eczema-like
skin reactions and could produce skin reactions that lead to cancer.
Seventeenth, light bulbs which satisfy the EU's requirements are
expensive. The EU imposes a 66% tariff on low-energy lightbulbs imported from
China, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam, partly, the Financial Times
has reported, because of lobbying by Osram, the bulb manufacturer owned by
Eighteenth, some CFLs need breaking in for about 100 hours
before their brightness level stabilises. So, every time you install a new bulb
you may have to put up with potentially serious health problems (headaches,
tripping over) for 100 hours or so.
Nineteenth, CFL bulbs may interfere
with the remote control for your television or other equipment - and may cause
static noises on your radio or cordless telephone. One expert advises that if
this happens you should switch off the light. Another has found that a cardboard
tube fashioned from an old lavatory roll centre and glued onto the relevant,
sensitive part of the television will minimise or eradicate the problem. (I do
not recommend that you try this at home. Electrical appliances get hot. Bits of
cardboard tend to be flammable.)
Twentieth, CFLs will burn out faster if
turned on and off a lot. So the bulbs will last longer if they are left switched
on when no one is in the room. This wastes energy but reduces your expenditure
The EU prefers to ignore this extraordinarily damning list of
drawbacks and to consider its new legislation a really good idea. The British
Government, loyal and stupid as ever, plans to have all traditional bulbs
replaced by the new, more dangerous ones this year (2011). Other countries will
doubtless take a rather more leisurely approach to this particular
Of course, people will find ways to get round the EU's new
nonsense. When I visited a local store to buy a couple of old-fashioned bulbs
the other day the assistant told me that they'd run out. `People have heard of
this daft new EU law,' he told me with a shrug of indifference. `Bulbs don't go
off so a lot of my customers are stock-piling the old ones that are due to be
banned. I don't suppose anyone will ever know unless the EU gets round to
sending inspectors round to people’s homes.' He thought for a moment. `Come to
think of it,' he added, `it wouldn't surprise me if they did do that.' He
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2011
OFPIS by Vernon Coleman
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