Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mercury Falling

I have a CFL bulb hanging over the top of my bed. When I lie on my back it sits right in the centre of my field of vision, suspended a few feet up and swayed slightly and ominously by the air currents created by the room's ceiling fan. The bulb is attached to a socket that literally hangs from a wire, as there is no proper fixture in the ceiling. I wonder sometimes whether the damn thing might fall on to my face; a CFL is after all heavier than your typical incandescent, and who knows how strong that socket and wire are?

And when I read articles like this one, I am reminded of the fact that these bulbs present more dangers than the usual glass shards when they break, because they contain tiny amounts of mercury. As the article points out, the EPA has a fairly involved set of instructions on what to do if a CFL breaks. It may be overkill and erring on the side of caution, but the paranoid part of me (i.e. most of me) would still freak out if one of these things broke, particularly if it smashed into my face! AAAAAAAAAGGGHHH, the mercury, it BURNSSSS!

And while the environmental and economic benefits of CFLs are clear, the possibility that we are trading in one problem for potentially another one down the line is worrying, especially if there is no good way to dispose of the darn things for most people. Despite this issue the consensus seems to be that the trade off is still well in favour of CFLs, but it just goes to show that there is no panacea. Unless those LED bulbs start to pan out...

Meanwhile, I'm going to get back to watching that confounded bulb sway to and fro. Only now I'll also wonder about the mercury getting into my bloodstream in addition to the whopping pain of it falling and striking me and the lacerations that the breaking shards of glass will bring with them.


Darwin said...

Maybe the swaying bulb can have a calming effect on you if you can hypnotise yourself with it. I guess working in a lab would be your worst nightmare, surrounded by carcinogenic chemicals and dangerous GM organisms!

Antimatter said...

Hypnotize? Is this one of your Derren Brown tricks?!

I don't want to contemplate being in a lab. Though, actually, I think I can handle that since there are safety precautions and procedures in place (I hope). But for this scenario... how do you prepare for a bulb falling on you? :D