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‘Green’ Lightbulbs Poison Chinese, Earth

From the UK’s Times:

‘Green’ lightbulbs poison workers

Hundreds of factory staff are being made ill by mercury used in bulbs destined for the West

May 3, 2009

WHEN British consumers are compelled to buy energy-efficient lightbulbs from 2012, they will save up to 5m tons of carbon dioxide a year from being pumped into the atmosphere. In China, however, a heavy environmental price is being paid for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories.

Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.

Doctors, regulators, lawyers and courts in China – which supplies two thirds of the compact fluorescent bulbs sold in Britain – are increasingly alert to the potential impacts on public health of an industry that promotes itself as a friend of the earth but depends on highly toxic mercury.

Making the bulbs requires workers to handle mercury in either solid or liquid form because a small amount of the metal is put into each bulb to start the chemical reaction that creates light…

Documents issued by the Chinese health ministry, instructions to doctors and occupational health propaganda all describe mercury poisoning in lighting factories as a growing public health concern…

In southern China, compact fluorescent lightbulbs destined for western consumers are being made in factories that range from high-tech multinational operations to sweat-shops, with widely varying standards of health and safety.

Tests on hundreds of employees have found dangerously high levels of mercury in their bodies and many have required hospital treatment, according to interviews with workers, doctors and local health officials in the cities of Foshan and Guangzhou.

Dozens of workers who were interviewed on condition of anonymity described living with the fear of mercury poisoning. They gave detailed accounts of medical tests that found numerous workers had dangerous levels of the toxin in their urine…

A survey of published specialist literature and reports by state media shows hundreds of workers at Chinese-owned factories have been poisoned by mercury over the past decade.

In one case, Foshan city officials intervened to order medical tests on workers at the Nanhai Feiyang lighting factory after receiving a petition alleging dangerous conditions, according to a report in the Nanfang Daily newspaper. The tests found 68 out of 72 workers were so badly poisoned they required hospitalisation.

A specialist medical journal, published by the health ministry, describes another compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Jinzhou, in central China, where 121 out of 123 employees had excessive mercury levels. One man’s level was 150 times the accepted standard.

The same journal identified a compact fluorescent lightbulb factory in Anyang, eastern China, where 35% of workers suffered mercury poisoning, and industrial discharge containing the toxin went straight into the water supply

The potential for litigation may be greatest in the ruined mountain landscape of Guizhou province in the southwest, where mercury has been mined for centuries. The land is scarred and many of the people have left.

Until recently, the conditions were medieval. Miners hewed chunks of rock veined with cinnabar, the main commercial source of mercury. They inhaled toxic dust and vapours as the material seethed in primitive cauldrons to extract the mercury. Nobody wore a mask or protective clothing…

The government shut all the big mercury mining operations in the region in recent years in response to a fall in global mercury prices and concern over dead rivers, poisoned fields and ailing inhabitants.

But The Sunday Times found that in this remote corner of a poverty-stricken province, the European demand for mercury had brought the miners back.

A Chinese entrepreneur, Zhao Yingquan, has paid £1.5m for the rights to an old state-run mine. The Luo Xi mining company used thousands of prisoners to carve out its first shaft and tunnels in the 1950s.

“We’re in the last stages of preparing the mine to start operations again in the second half of this year,” said a manager at the site, named Su…

But never mind the details.

It’s the intentions that count.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, May 4th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

15 Responses to “‘Green’ Lightbulbs Poison Chinese, Earth”

  1. U NO HOO says:

    As Quinn says, liberalism’s result is always the opposite of the goal.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    This is a direct blast on our eco-friendly BlackBarry da Pirate. Because of his policies pushing the U.S. into a EPA correct nation, the people who hold the note on America are being killed in slow motion.
    Barry has already kicked over the American rice bowl……….

    Isn’t the color of envy …. “Green?”

  3. proreason says:

    The list of big government programs that have been successful is very very short.

    The problem is that big government has no laboratory…..as does private business.

    Private business, by nature, has a laboratory because every new business is an experiment. The ones that don’t work go away. The ones that do work survive.

    A tragedy for our country is that the founding fathers were extremely wise and gave us such a laboratory in the form of federalism.

    But state’s rights and state experimentation with policy doesn’t fit the agenda of the commissars.

    Because if only good policies were allowed to survive, every commissar alive today would be out of a job.

  4. Douglas says:

    OK, so CFLs made in sweatshops are cost competitive with normal bulbs. How cost effective are they if the employees at the factory are made safe from mercury?

  5. heykev says:

    I for one would never own one of these “green” bulbs. Since they have mercury in them, they are extremely hard to dispose of properly. You shouldn’t just throw them in the trash, because when they break (and they will) they contaiminate the enviroment.

    Here’s what happens when you break one:

    “What happens when an incandescent bulb hits the floor? Simple: sweep it up, and try not to step on a shard of glass with bare feet. Here’s how people need to handle a broken CFL:

    1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
    2. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
    3. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    4. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
    5. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
    6. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
    7. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
    8. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing cleanup materials.
    9. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a recycling center.
    10. For at least the next few times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
    11. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.”

    From: http://hotair.com/archives/2008/03/19/green-shock-cfls-more-dangerous-than-first-thought/

    A simple 11 step process for cleaning up a broken bulb. All that missing is the Haz Mat team.

    • proreason says:

      About 1 hour of effort including checking on disposal requirements. That would be worth $25, on average.

      Add another hour 1/4 of the time for states that require a re-cycling center. That’s another $6.25.

      Add $1 for gas and auto maintenance associated with the re-cycling trip.

      Add $1 for environmental damage associated with the re-cycling trip, and incremental CO2 expelled during the clean-up effort.

      Add $2 for costs at the re-cyling center,

      Add about $2 for cycling the A/C or heat and the jars, tape, wet-wipes and other supplies.

      Since 1 out of 100 people will make a mistake and get sick, add a $1000 Emergency Room visit, for an additional cost of $10 on average.

      Add $1 per bulb in unrecovered benovelent government effort (i.e., taxes) to create / distribute / maintain / manage the materials describing the man-made disaster procedure.

      Add the cost of the bulb, guessing $4 on average.

      Total cost of a broken bulb, $52.25.

      Unless you really screw up and get sick and die. But that will only happen in rare cases and should therefore not be considered in the cost analysis.

      Unless you are one of the unlucky few.

    • Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

      “I for one would never own one of these “green” bulbs.”


      You won’t have choice unless you’re willing to stockpile incandescent bulbs and wait for LED bulbs to become cost effective. Honestly, we’ve lived with fluorescent lighting (yes, they ALL use Mercury) for how many decades and now it’s a threat to life as we know it. My friends and I used to break and shoot fluorescent tubes by the dozens when we were kids, and other than the strange twitches I get every now and then (KIDDING), we’re no worse for it.

  6. Petronius says:

    Liberals invariably make matters worse. How much energy will be consumed, and how much carbon dioxide will be generated, in transportation of these mercury bulbs halfway around the world? And what about the environmental damage and clean-up costs associated with handling and disposal of these hazardous materials by consumers at destination?

    Of course these practical considerations don’t matter to the Liberal; they matter no more than the health of Chinese factory workers and miners, no more than the wasteland that was once Guizhou province. After all, the goal is not environmental improvement, but rather alleviation of the guilt that is embedded in the Liberal psyche. Irrational guilt is the driving force at the root of Liberal ideology and Liberal programs. Driven by his guilt, the Liberal must always DO SOMETHING! . . . whether it’s carbon dioxide emissions, world poverty, low test scores in public schools, illegal aliens without health insurance, you-name-it, the Liberal must have a program to address “the problem”––even though he hasn’t got a clue about what he is doing, and even though everything he does invariably makes matters worse.

  7. Right of the People says:

    Why doesn’t the Chinese EPA or OSHA do something about this? (sarcasm) Take a liberal shooting today, they make great target holders.


  8. Rusty Shackleford says:

    –Note to self—Do not eat the new light bulbs. OLD lightbulbs-OK. NEW bulbs NOT OK

    Check and check

  9. canary says:

    First kill anymore than one baby, then several years ago, Chinese smoking poisioned cigeretts, then tainted baby formula to cut down population, then news spreading China is forcing their people to smoke cigeretts. Now mercury poisoning which if it doesn’t kill them leads to birth defects. No sweat. If it’s a girl baby, they’ll be happy, boy baby sad. But, I think Hilary’s recent visit and speech encouraging them to go green, and grow as a people is being ignored.
    And now China has cut off loans to America. Guess their mad the annumnition casing and shells didn’t arrive. We are borrowing 175 billion a week. Then we just hand it to the terrorist.



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