As prices come down, compact fluorescent light bulbs are making their energy saving way into most homes. Because of some concerns about their small mercury content, breakage, and the eventual disposal of these bulbs, not everyone is thrilled about their wide acceptance. Now another issue with some of the bulbs has started to be noted, headaches.
Recent studies have shown that the flickering present in some of the bulbs can cause headaches, migraines, or in rare cases, even seizures. The makers of the bulbs say that more recent models have improved to the point where it is very rare for people to have problems with them. I don’t notice anything with the ones we have installed in our house. Even the color of the light has become much more natural with recent models. We do have one yellow porch CFL that takes a few minutes to reach full intensity, but the rest are almost instantly on when the switch is thrown.
The small amount of mercury is something I have written about before and could be a concern with these bulbs. Breakage is a risk, although probably a small one. People have used fluorescent tubes in their kitchens for a long time, so are used to being careful. If one does break there are some specific recommended steps to take in cleaning up the pieces. That cleanup information and much more can be found in this PDF document from EnergyStar.gov. I sue these bulbs in many of the lights in our home and recommend that you consider them also.
My biggest concern is the recycling of the bulbs. Most fluorescent bulbs, tubes or CFL’s, end up in the landfill. There is no quick and easy way for most people to recycle them, so they go into the household trash. I am not optimistic that this will change. The only solution is the development of fluorescent bulbs without mercury, or a rush to make LED lights much more affordable than they currently are. Until that happens, CFL’s will be the light bulb of choice for most people. If recycling options for these bulbs are not improved, as the years go by and they start to burn out, most will end up in the landfill.