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13 April 2024

Beware! Efficient bulbs can be hazardous

By Majorie van Leijen

The gradual phase out of energy efficient light bulbs and the possible increase of the use of fluorescent lights requires awareness about safe disposal of fluorescent bulbs.

The set of rules regulating the distribution and usage of light bulbs proposed by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is currently under revision with the Cabinet for approval, and when approval is obtained implementation of the regulation can be expected within 6 months.

The regulation is expected to gradually face out inefficient incandescent bulbs and introduce a rating system for the alternative fluorescent bulbs, the higher rates representing the more efficient light bulbs.

However, the increase of fluorescent light bulbs in the household comes with safety hazards too, explains the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA).

Fluorescent lamps use electricity to excite mercury vapor. It consumes a quarter of the energy that the traditional incandescent lamp requires to produce the same amount of light, and it lasts eight to ten times longer.

But mercury is a toxic chemical. Upon disposal, or when the bulb is dropped on the floor, there is a risk of toxic exposure. To avoid this risk, a good plan needs to come along with the implementation of the new regulation.

"The introduction of these regulations does not only concern energy saving, but safety at the same time," explains Mohammad Ahmad al Mulla, Director of Metrology Department, ESMA.

The Ministry of Water and Environment, ESMA and other environmental groups and stakeholders are working together to establish a working plan guaranteeing a safe introduction of the shift to energy sufficient lighting.

"We need to come up with a waste collection and recycling system. Safe disposal is very important in this case," says Mohammad.

Together with the parties involved ESMA aims to make people aware of the importance of safe disposal of the fluorescent light bulbs, without trying to frighten people.

In many parts of the world, incandescent lighting is gradually being phased out and the fluorescent bulb is more and more becoming part of the household.

With this growing trend, critics of the energy saving bulbs have spoken out, concerned about the possible exposure to the toxic elements.

Countering these concerns, supporters of the fluorescent light bulb point out that the amount of mercury possibly released from a broken bulb is hardly of any risk to a person.

With the new regulations the percentage of mercury in a light bulb will be restricted and monitored, points out ESMA.

Although one broken light bulb does not do harm, the increase in usage of such light bulbs in the household makes ESMA extra cautious.

"We want to make people aware that it is important to safely dispose these light bulbs," says Mohammad.

"It is not an easy task and a lot of work. But we will implement the rule with a broad campaign."

Apart from light bulbs ESMA is looking at a range of other product with regards to energy saving. Washing machines are currently in the loop for a new regulation, while ESMA is reviewing the energy sufficiency of refrigerators and water heaters.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)