Regulations to check mercury pollution take backseat as Centre promotes fluorescent light
Light on mercury
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.
The CFLs sold in the country have 3- 12 mg of mercury. As per the standards proposed by the International Electrotechnical Commission it should not be more than 5 mg. Advanced technologies have even helped manufacturers in USA and Europe produce CFLs with just 1 mg of mercury. “Indian industry does not have any mandatory or voluntary standards for regulating mercury in florescent lights,” said Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch, a non-profit in Delhi.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.