The Corner

Don’t Tell Glenn Reynolds

Energy-saving light bulbs can cost you a fortune:

How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent light bulb? About US$4.28 for the bulb and labour — unless you break the bulb. Then you, like Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, could be looking at a cost of about US$2,004.28, which doesn’t include the costs of frayed nerves and risks to health.

Sound crazy? Perhaps no more than the stampede to ban the incandescent light bulb in favour of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

According to an April 12 article in The Ellsworth American, Bridges had the misfortune of breaking a CFL during installation in her daughter’s bedroom: It dropped and shattered on the carpeted floor.

Aware that CFLs contain potentially hazardous substances, Bridges called her local Home Depot for advice. The store told her that the CFL contained mercury and that she should call the Poison Control hotline, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent a specialist to Bridges’ house to test for mercury contamination. The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state’s “safe” level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter. The DEP specialist recommended that Bridges call an environmental cleanup firm, which reportedly gave her a “low-ball” estimate of US$2,000 to clean up the room. The room then was sealed off with plastic and Bridges began “gathering finances” to pay for the US$2,000 cleaning. Reportedly, her insurance company wouldn’t cover the cleanup costs because mercury is a pollutant.

Update: Somebody already did.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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