It's always something.
Now, it turns out that one of the proposed solutions to global warming -- the low-energy fluorescent light bulb -- makes skin conditions worse, according to the BBC.
Health conditions which can involve some form of light sensitivity, include the auto-immune disease lupus, the genetic disorder Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), certain forms of eczema and dermatitis, photosensitivity, and porphyria.
It's a big deal in the UK, where retailers will stop selling the incandescent light bulb by 2011.
The low-energy bulb is also being blamed for migraines and even epileptic attacks.
But even some experts on lupus hint that the "scare" may be overblown. " It is my opinion that if a standard fluorescent tube lighting source is shielded by a standard acrylic plastic diffuser, there's virtually no significant risk for people with systemic lupus," wrote Dr. Richard D. Sontheimer, of a Lupus organization. "However, if a person with lupus is exposed to unshielded fluorescent lighting at close distances for prolonged periods of time, then the cumulative exposure to UVB and UVA could be a problem."
What I am concerned about is the mercury in compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL). Is this a health risk? What do you do if you break one in your house? Why would we want to introduce more mercury into our daily lives? What about the costs for special handling when they are being disposed? In essence, at this point I am not convinced that when all of the costs involved with the CFL are taken into account that they are not a worse choice both environmentally and financially.
This is not just a big deal in the UK. It's a big deal to all of us who suffer from conditions made worse or triggered by flourescent lights. As a person who suffers from migraines, lighting matters a lot to me. Thankfully my employer purchased non-flourescent lighting for my workspace, and I have no flourescent lights in my home. I do everything I can to avoid the debilitation of migraines, and I can't imagine a world with no incandescent bulbs. I just don't trust that CFLs will really be any better than flourescent tube lighting, and I think limiting the sale and use of incandescent bulbs is bad policy, likely to have negative public health and productivity effects.
IN THIS POST:
 MERCURY IN BULBS INSIGNIFICANT RELATIVE TO MERCURY FROM BURNING COAL OR EATING FISH WHAT TO DO IF ONE BREAKS  WHERE TO GO FOR RECYCLING/DISPOSAL
The amount of mercury generated as a result of burning coal to supply electricity for a standard bulb is approx. 10 milligrams; but only 2.4 milligrams generated for a CFL bulb over its lifetime. If the USA as a nation completely installed CFLs, we would see a 7 ton reduction of mercury emissions per year. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp .......
These bulbs cannot release any mercury at all unless they are broken. They are safe indoors. And the amount a typical 23watt (100 watt equiv.) lamp bulb contains is only between 1 to 4 milligrams. This amount is very small. Consider that a single dental filling has 800 milligrams of mercury (dental amalgam is 50% mercury) about 200 times more than a single CFL bulb has; and unlike bulbs, fillings do release mercury vapor (at the rate of about 5 micrograms/day). Consider that tuna and other fish can be legally sold as food in the USA and contain up to 1 milligram of organic mercury per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fish (EPA guidelines). Even if the bulb breaks it is not a significant hazard because it has no more mercury than a few large Tuna or Swordfish steaks......WHAT TO DO IF ONE BREAKS
If a bulb breaks, only about 30% of the mercury will vaporize. As soon as it breaks, open the window and leave the room for 15 minutes to allow the air to change and minimize breathing the vapor. Do not vacuum (you don't want mercury to be stored indoors in your vacuum); use a damp sponge to clean up the glass, put it in a bag, and remove it from the house.
Reference: http://energystar.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/energystar.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=2655 ..... WHERE TO GO FOR RECYCLING/DISPOSAL
The mercury in bulbs is often in the form of a solid dot of amalgam (like a tiny dental filling) and is easily recaptured and recycled http://www.lamprecycle.org/ has more info on where to take spent bulbs.
BROKEN CFL EXPOSURE BY THE NUMBERS: If the entire 5 mg of mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), the airborne mercury concentration in a 25 cubic meter sized bedroom will be 0.2 mg per cubic meter of air. That level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits of 0.05 mg per cubic meter of air of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. If one assumes the the air exchanges completely in one hour (a fairly standard assumption), then the 8-hour average concentration would be 0.025 mg per cubic meter of air or "mg/m3". Since only about 30% of mercury in a CFL can vaporize over 8 hours this lowers to 0.0075 mg/m3. If the bulb has only 1 mg not 5 mg (some brands like Neolite and Philips have this lower amount) now we only have 0.0015 mg/m3 (and keep in mind 0.5 mg/m3 is within OSHA limits; the bedroom has about 300 times less mercury than the OSHA limit) this is all assuming the 'worst case' that no one opened a window for fresh air or attempted to clean up and remove the broken bulb for more than 8 hours. So I am going to buy CFL bulbs, they are not dangerous.