In response to Horatio Couture’s letter, “Mercury hazards of CFLs, the green energy bulbs,” published Jan. 12, the Natural Resources Council of Maine has worked for decades to prevent toxic pollution. This includes mercury pollution from consumer products such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) as well as from coal-fired power plants.

We have been instrumental in passing state laws to reduce toxic pollution in Maine’s workplaces, communities and our environment. So, it should come as no surprise that we strongly support replacing harmful products with safer alternatives when available.

In the case of light bulbs, converting to CFLs reduces mercury and other pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. CFLs reduce mercury because they require less electricity to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a power plant emits four times more mercury pollution to produce the electricity needed to power a incandescent bulb than a CFL for the same amount of time.

CFLs do contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing — no mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use.

That is why it is important to recycle these bulbs. Thanks to a manufacturer-funded “product stewardship” program, Maine people can and should recycle old CFLs for free at more than 200 hardware stores and other retail outlets across the state. This keeps spent bulbs from breaking in the trash and releasing mercury. For more information, visit

Abby King, policy advocate

Natural Resources Council of Maine


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