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Are we trading energy conservation for toxic air emissions?
Date:10/1/2008

epartment of Chemical Engineering and its School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Touted as a greener alternative to traditional lighting, CFLs are about four times more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. This increased efficiency lessens the energy demand on generating stations powered by fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the amount of packaging and old light bulbs that end up in landfills. But unlike incandescent light bulbs, CFLs contain mercury, a toxin with potentially hazardous effects that can be released during manufacturing and disposal.

"It's always good to promote energy efficiency, but it's always a tradeoff," said lead author Matthew Eckelman, a graduate student in Yale's Department of Chemistry and the Center for Industrial Ecology. "You may get a lower energy bill at home, but you don't see the emissions or the runoff downstream."

While the researchers stress that their study isn't an excuse to ignore the energy problem and stick with old, inefficient technologies, they caution that nation-wide strategies such as recent bans on incandescent bulbs, adopted by several countries including the U.S., may be too general. "All sustainability issues are local," said Zimmerman. "We need to ask if we should be making decisions on a national level, or if this is something better left to local governments."


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Contact: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
suzanne.taylormuzzin@yale.edu
203-432-8555
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert

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