No ones controlling mercury

  • 30/01/2009

Industry reluctant, regulators lax

The only hiccup in implementing a wide scale, cfl -based energy-saving programme in India is mercury, a small but essential component of the lamp. Mercury is a proven neurotoxin. Inhaling mercury vapours can severely damage the respiratory tract. Sore throat, coughing, pain or tightness in the chest, headache, muscle weakness, anorexia, gastrointestinal disturbance, fever, bronchitis and pneumonitis are symptoms of mercury toxicity.

Mercury in a cfl has no substitute but its quantity can be reduced. In developed countries, like the US and Europe, cfls with 1 mg of mercury are available. The cfls sold in India, however, have 3 mg to 13 mg mercury, according to the task force set up by the environment and forests ministry under its additional secretary A K Khwaja in August 2007.The mandate of the task force was to evolve a policy on safe use and disposal of mercury in the cfl sector, including in manufacturing. Its members included representatives of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Central Pollution Control Board, National Institute of Occupational Health, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the health ministry. Representatives of light manufacturing associations were also invited for discussions. In its report, released in May 2008, the task force recommended that the Bureau of Indian Standards should draw up standards for regulating the quantity of mercury in cfls.

The best way to dose a cfl with mercury is using pellets or mercury amalgams. Mercury is mixed with other metals such as tin to form small pellets, roughly the size of the tip of a ball point pen. The other way is to use liquid mercury.

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