Light on mercury | Centre for Science and Environment

Light on mercury


Regulations to check mercury pollution take backseat as Centre promotes fluorescent light

Sifting through Delhi’s municipal rubbish every day, Anwarul Shaikh and Rupa Begum often find broken CFL bulbs mixed in kitchen and other domestic waste. The compact fluorescent lamps have replaced incandescent bulbs in garbage mounds in the past couple of years, Rupa said, picking a few up. The glass tube and plastic end cap of a CFL fetch them up to Rs 3. Of late, Anwarul has been complaining of restricted vision. “It’s difficult to recognise distance between objects and me. I keep bumping into waste,” he said.

Mercury vapour in broken CFLs could be the reason for Anwarul’s condition, said T K Joshi, director, occupational and environmental programmes centre of Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi. Since mercury is a neurotoxin, it can affect all organs of the body. Its major impact is on the brain, lungs and kidneys, said Joshi.

But with growing demand for energy- efficient lighting, the country’s production capacity for CFLs has gone up 25 times—from 19 million in 2002 to 500 million in 2010. Centre’s Bachat Lamp Yojana, a scheme to popularise CFLs, alone has pushed 20 million CFLs in the past three years. And all this is without any check on mercury pollution.

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