Groups Rally Consumers to Go for Mercury-Free Lighting Products

Environmental health and climate protection groups are urging consumers to support the global switch to energy-saving and mercury-free lighting products for the benefit of the people and the planet.

Coinciding with the observance today of the World Consumer Rights Day, which focuses on the theme “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transitions,” the groups pointed to the global phase-out by 2025 of mercury-added compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for general lighting purposes in view of the availability of light emitting diode (LED) alternatives that contain no mercury.

The decision to phase out CFLs by 2025 was made in March 2022 at the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  The decision, however, does not cover the phase-out of linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs), which is expected to be tackled at COP5 in November 2023.

“We enjoin consumers of lighting products from households, schools, offices, hotels and other establishments to go for mercury-free, highly efficient and cost effective LED lights,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  “Aside from conserving energy, the switch to LED lights will contribute to reducing mercury pollution that is associated with the mining and use of mercury in the production of fluorescents, and the discharge of hazardous mercury vapors when such lights are broken, improperly recycled or disposed of.”

Figures from the Clean Lighting Coalition indicate that the accelerated transition to LED lights will avoid 754 TWh of energy consumption and result in $105.6 billion energy bill savings from 2025-2050.  Moreover, it will prevent 34.8 metric tonnes of mercury pollution and 263 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

“When we use an energy service such as lighting that consumes less electricity, the good impact of this goes from our homes to the power plants because this means lesser demand for electricity that these facilities need to meet,” said Danielle Lacsamana, Program Officer, Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST). “By using an energy-saving lighting technology like LED, we also contribute to reducing mercury emissions into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, especially coal. Indeed, shifting to LEDs is one of the most practical actions that can help make our world a more livable place.”

Lee Bell, Mercury and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Adviser for the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) insisted “the time is right to move away from LFLs that contain mercury and to adopt the new, highly efficient LED lighting now available at competitive prices.  The advantages are enormous with benefits to consumers, the environment and climate.”

“Long lasting LEDs are far more efficient than old fluorescent lamps with long term savings to consumers on electricity consumption and replacement lamps.  More importantly, we can remove the hazardous mercury-based lamps from our households where they represent a serious hazard to householders and especially children and pregnant women,” he said.

As pointed out by Lee Bell, these old mercury lamps can be readily recycled with commercially available technology that operates in many countries worldwide.  However, great care must be taken not to break the lamps during collection and transport for recycling as this can create serious mercury contamination.

To avoid the use of substandard LED lights that may cause electric shock or fire, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to shun counterfeit or uncertified products and to only buy products that have passed the mandatory product certification procedures as stipulated under Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Administrative Order No. 19-02, series of 2018.  “Pick the ones with a valid Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) sticker or the Philippine Standard (PS),” the group reminded.

The group likewise reminded consumers to safely manage spent fluorescent lamps to avoid the release of mercury vapors from broken products.  "Don't simply throw busted fluorescents into the bin, dump or burn them," the group said.  “The improper disposal of used fluorescent lamps as ordinary trash is exposing waste handlers, informal recyclers and the public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin."