Vermont may become the first state to ban mercury-containing lighting –

December 24, 2021 by No Comments

Photo by Diermaier via Pixabay

Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation plans to issue a decision on the future of mercury-containing lightbulbs in the state in 2022. If it bans the lights, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to do so. 

A petition to ban the lights was sent to the department in October from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Mercury Policy Project, the Clean Lighting Coalition and the Appliance Standards Awareness project. 

Current state law says fluorescent bulbs, or “lamps,” can be sold only until there is a mercury-free alternative that works as well at an equal or lower cost. 

After reading the petition, Matt Chamber, director of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s waste management division, said in an interview that the department reached out to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which represents lighting suppliers and coordinates the mercury take-back program.

“We’re reviewing NEMA’s response and VPIRG’s initial petition to come up with a draft decision that we expect will be out in the next several weeks to sort of render a decision on what sort of lamps we think are and are not banned under that particular provision,” Chamber said.

The decision will then remain open for 30 days of public comment before taking effect, Chambers said. 

In the association’s response, NEMA argues that the only mercury-containing lights with LED alternatives that “cost equal to or better,” are screw-in compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Linear fluorescent lamps, they argue, would be too expensive to replace. 

“Non-mercury products often do not constitute direct, ‘plug-in’ replacements for mercury-containing lamps,” NEMA said in its response. “The latter consideration means that conversion to non-mercury solutions for some critical applications means installing new fixtures to accommodate non-mercury bulbs, if not replacing the entire lighting system.”

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Mercury Policy Project, the Clean Lighting Coalition and the Appliance Standards Awareness project disagree. Their news release pointed out that big name lighting companies such as GE and Philips advertise a number of “hassle-free” retrofit LED tube options. 

“Not only are LED replacement lamps widely available, they are also an easy retrofit solution that will save Vermont residents and businesses money year after year,” the release said. 

When you consider the cost over time, LED tubes are much more affordable — even if their ticket price is slightly higher — because they are more energy efficient, Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, told VTDigger.

“Lasting longer and being more efficient means you’re going to save money for the people who purchase these products over the long run,” Burns said. 

Fluorescents originally became used as a more efficient alternative to incandescent lighting, Burns said.

“But when these products became popular, we also realized that because they inherently contain a small amount of mercury that collectively added up to a lot,” Burns said. “Each light or lamp individually could present a hazard too if they were broken inside your home or classroom or business.”

According to a Clean Lighting Coalition report published in October, fluorescent lamps release mercury when broken. That means any fluorescent light in places such as homes, schools and hospitals can cause a serious public health risk to those in the building. In addition, the report points out that switching to LED lights would take away the mercury and other air pollutants being released from coal-burning power plants when the …….



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