Health and Environmental warning

Reef Maniac

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Hi All,

Here's an extract from an article published by the BBC World news service, which could be of interest to us all:

Low-energy bulb disposal warning

The Environment Agency has called for more information to be made available on the health and environmental risks posed by low-energy light bulbs.

...Toxicologist Dr David Ray, from the University of Nottingham, said about 6-8mg of mercury was present in a typical low-energy bulb, which he described as a "pretty small amount". "Mercury accumulates in the body - especially the brain," he said. "The biggest danger is repeated exposure - a one off exposure is not as potentially dangerous compared to working in a light bulb factory.
"If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger."
I've never thought about this before, but I believe that all the fluorescent lamps (T8's and the new T5's) AND metal halide lamps contain heavy metals, including mercury. Because our lamps are concentrated in small areas above our tanks, this could have potentially more dangerous implications for our health than the above report suggests for "normal" households. Also, I dare say that we replace our tank's lamps much more regularly than normal household lamps - how do we dispose of them? I must admit that until now, I've just thrown them into the rubbish bin...

Hennie
 

Mike

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Funnily enough, as part of my work as a facilities manager, i have to organise bulb changing, i then have to account for every bulb that the company used, to ensure that they are all recycled - whilst at home, the council have never demanded the same - and there is no way to dispose of them safely.
 

sunburst

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Me too. Just toss them.
It would appear then that over time waste dumps would have mercury runoff that could percolate into our rivers/drinking water. Factories must go through a decent number in a year. Wonder what disciplines are in place for there disposal
 

Warr7207

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South Africa is way behind the rest of the world, when it comes to recycling.
 

Reef Maniac

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South Africa is way behind the rest of the world, when it comes to recycling.
Me too. Just toss them.
It would appear then that over time waste dumps would have mercury runoff that could percolate into our rivers/drinking water.
Although the long-term environmental impact of us reefers is probably negligible compared to that of industry and business in general (as is our impact on the reefs, if compared to the "big polluters...), I do feel that we should be as diligent and responsible as possible. I will certainly try to dispose of my lamps in a more responsible manner (if at all possible...).

My main concern, and reason for posting this link, though, is for our personal safety - especially for our fellow aquarists with young children. If a lamp is broken in a normal room the concentration of mercury and other toxic metals in the air would be pretty dilute, and not very dangerous. If an accident occured and (say) 4 T5's broke whilst you had your head inside the canopy, or whilst working in the "fish room", (for those few lucky people who have such a luxury...), the concentration level would be much higher. Also, like most long-term aquarists, I have broken more than a few fluorescent tubes in my lifetime, and the toxic effect is cumulative... and I thought that I were getting "dof" because of old age :whistling:

Anyway, I don't think there's any reason to panic or to make drastic changes to our lighting - just be aware of the potential hazard.

Hennie
 
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Kanga

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Very interesting info Hennie, I must all my old tubes have a long wood box where they go to in the garage, i just hate the idea of some poor kid sifting through the garbage and cutting himself on my rubbish.

What would be the right way to dispose of them I wonder?
 

Mike

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South Africa is way behind the rest of the world, when it comes to recycling.
I honestly don't think so, the UK gov't makes lots of noises about recycling.. but that is it, there are no funds available to set up recycling centres, those that are set up have no real infrastructure - i was told by one company that it had hundreds of tons of paper that had nowhere to go, simply because nothing had been set up past collecting the paper - the local councils are threatening to fine us for putting too many rubbish bags out, but give us no alternative.
It seems to me that, while the councils and our Gov't are happy to tell everyone what to do, they don't actually want to do anything themselves.
 

Galibore

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Very interesting topic.

What do you guys suggest would be an appropriate method of disposal?
 

Reef Maniac

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... A document from DWAF also attached
Thanks Kevin.

based on the above discussion regarding mercury, such approval will not be given under any circumstances for the disposal of fluorescent tubes collected in large quantities.
Well, there you have it... we may buy and use fluorescent lamps, but we may not dispose of them...

What do they (DWAF) consider to be large quantities?

Hennie

PS. It's shocking to read the bad English, and misspelt words, in the .pdf document - this being an official government document :nono:
 

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