Mercury contamination in our environment and Mercury in Lighting

LED Markets and Opinion

staff writer


Increasingly, people have become familiar with the environmental and human health impacts associated with mercury and its compounds.


Mercury is a naturally occurring element of the earth. It has unique properties which have been exploited for hundreds if not thousands of years. Most people are aware that (CFL) compact fluorescent light bulbs, contain small amounts of mercury ,increasingly, people have become familiar with the environmental and human health impacts associated with mercury and its compounds let's have a look at other common products that contain mercury around your house and workplace.


Mercury is an essential component of most energy-efficient lamps.


Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent tubes

Mercury Vapor Lamps

Metal Halide Lamps

High Pressure Sodium Lamps

Neon Lamps

CFL (compact fluorescent lights)


Other items that may contain mercury in your home or office


Mercury Switches

Thermostat Probes




the real problem begins at the end of the product life.


Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers


“At some point all of these lamps break. General belief is that most of the breakage occurs in the container, as opposed to at the landfill, due to the fragile glass and compacting that occurs in containers. When these containers are also exposed to moisture from rain or other sources and they leak, or when they are washed out, mercury enters the environment. Studies have shown that when fluorescent lamps break in containers the mercury can hover for days, and eventually migrate downwind and back onto the land." Further stating: "No one knows how many containers there are, how many will have tops open when it is raining or exactly how many lamps will break in any container, but we do know that there are still over 500 million mercury-lamps per year put into some type of solid waste container and managed as municipal solid waste.”

This waste mercury ends up in runoff water and can then be turned into methylmercury by natural occurring bacteria activity. This is happening all over North America and the main contributor continues to be coal burning power stations that are releasing tons of mercury into our environment every year. Methylmercury ends up in our food supply as well as our water supply.


“Although scientists from USGS and elsewhere are beginning to unravel the complex interactions between mercury and the environment, a lack of information on the sources, behavior, and effects of mercury in the environment has impeded identification of effective management responses to the Nation's growing mercury problem.”


Help prevent Mercury poisoning our oceans and waterways, recycle all fluorescent and compact fluorescent products by bringing them to an approved collection center.


Choose solid-state lighting wherever possible


LED lights, contain zero Mercury, use on average 1/5 or less energy to produce the same amount of light.


Reducing and\or stabilizing demand for electricity continues to be a key factor on how much mercury is released into our environment.

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