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EU bans incandescent light bulbs

Meeting last week in Luxembourg, European Union energy ministers agreed to ban filament light bulbs across all 27 member states. The decision comes just a few days before the EU will lift duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China, a move that is expected to bring down their prices.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / October 15, 2008

Andrew deLaski/Appliance Standards Awareness Project

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Beginning in 2010, the light bulbs in European sockets will be doing a lot less incandescing and a lot more fluorescing.

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Meeting last week in Luxembourg, European Union energy ministers agreed to ban filament light bulbs across all 27 member states. The decision comes just a few days before the EU will lift duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China, a move that is expected to bring down their prices.

Last year, Australia became the first country to enact an outright ban on incandescents, which will take effect in 2010. They were followed by Cuba, who apparently sent youth brigades into people's homes to swap out the bulbs for more energy-efficient ones, and the Philippines, which announced plans to phase them out by 2010.

In the United States, the Energy Independence and Security Act, passed in June 2007 requires roughly 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs, phased in from 2012 through 2014. This effectively bans incandescent bulbs.

The most common types of energy-efficient bulbs, known as compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs, use between one-fifth and one-third of the power of equivalent incandescent bulbs. According to the conservation group WWF, who praised the decision, the switch will help reduce domestic energy consumption for lighting by 60 percent in the EU, equivalent to some 30 million tons of CO2 annually. (The EU emits about 4 billion tons of CO2 each year.)

But CFLs are not without their critics. Many complain that the light is harsher and more flickery than that emitted by incandescent bulbs, that they take longer to turn on, and that they don't work well with dimmer switches.

Most troubling for green-minded consumers, the bulbs contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic substance that can escape from the bulb if it is broken. While many of the fears of broken CFLs are overblown – they do not, as one news article claims, require an environmental cleanup crew – experts advise that you open your window and let the room air out for at least 15 minutes, and then put on disposable gloves before you clean up the broken bulb.

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