The Effects of Mercury

Pollution prevention through purchasing

You may not have thought much about it, but what you purchase has a large impact on the environment. Your decision today has a direct impact on the environment either through a reduction or increase in energy usage. You may not totally be able to eliminate pollution or energy usage but you can have a positive effect by what you purchase.

There are many opportunities for reducing pollution while increasing energy efficiency.

An excellent way is the adoption of an LED lighting system upgrade. LED lights contain no mercury or lead and have the highest rated efficiency of any lighting source available. By implementing a LED lighting system you will eliminate harmful mercury from the environment and substantially reduce greenhouse gases.

Why reduce mercury from the environment?

Mercury has been a well-known environmental pollutant for several decades. It’s been known for the last 60 years that mercury exposure could have serious effects on human health. Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in the air, water and soil. There are three basic forms of mercury: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds and organic mercury. Coal burning power plants are the biggest source of mercury pollution, but there are several others serious contributors to mercury entering into the environment. Those include burning hazardous waste, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products like fluorescent and CFL bulbs and improper disposal of products containing mercury.

Human exposure

There are two basic ways mercury is introduced into the human body which are by breathing vaporous mercury (metallic mercury) or by consuming fish (methyl-mercury). The most dangerous form of mercury is the organic mercury known as methyl-mercury.  Excessive exposure from mercury deteriorates the nervous system which affects muscle movement, mood swings, insomnia, headaches, hearing, speech, vision and gait. Mercury exposure is especially dangerous for fetuses, infants and children because it impairs neurological development. Methyl mercury is highly toxic and is dangerous in humans and animals because it is accumulated in the body faster than it can be eliminated.

Where does methyl-mercury come from?

Once vaporous mercury enters the air via pollution it is returned to the earth by rain fall and enters into lakes, rivers, streams and the oceans. Mercury over time falls to the bottom of the lake, river or ocean where plankton and bacteria take up the inorganic mercury and through a metabolic process convert it to organic, methyl-mercury.  These plankton and bacteria are consumed by other animals higher in the food chain and eventually end up in humans though the consumption of fish. There have been studies on both sides of the fence on whether or not consumption of fish containing high amounts of methyl-mercury is detrimental to your health. With that said we believe it’s still important to eliminate mercury pollution in the environment. Mercury pollution is a global problem.

Mercury in fluorescent, CFL and HID bulbs

Although it varies from manufacturer and lamp model a typical 400w metal halide lamp will have between 40-65 mg of mercury with an average life span of 20,000 hours, or about 5 years. A typical HO T5 linear fluorescent lamp will have between 5.6–20 mg of mercury and an average life span of 20,000 hours as well. A small manufacturing facility with 20 high bay 400w metal halides will pollute one 20 acre lake every five years with 1 gram of mercury.

Energy reduction

LED lights are up to 90% more energy efficient that other lighting sources such as fluorescent, CFL, HID and incandescent. Since the energy reduction is so significant the potential impact on energy and pollution reduction is tremendous.

The above chart from the Department of Energy represents the baseline energy savings LED lights can provide by the year 2030. The Department of Energy believes that the implementation of  LED lighting systems could reduce the electrical consumption in the United States by nearly one half or 46% by the year 2030. The savings over the 20 year period would be $250 billion dollars and would eliminate 1,800 million metric tons of greenhouse gases released into the environment. Now you have the knowledge to purchase for pollution prevention. The upgrade of your existing lighting system to a LED system makes perfect sense. Not only will it put money back in your pocket, it is a smart investment in the future.