Spatial assessment of net mercury emissions from the use of fluorescent bulbs

  • Eckelman M
  • Anastas P
  • Zimmerman J
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Abstract

While fluorescent lighting is an important technology for reducing electrical energy demand, mercury used in the bulbs is an ongoing concern. Using state and country level data, net emissions of mercury from the marginal use of fluorescent lightbulbs are examined for a base year of 2004 for each of the 50 United States and 130 countries. Combustion of coal for electric power generation is generally the largest source of atmospheric mercury pollution; reduction in electricity demand from the substitution of incandescent bulbs with fluorescents leads to reduced mercury emissions during the use of the bulb. This analysis considers the local mix of power sources, coal quality, thermal conversion efficiencies, distribution losses, and any mercury control technologies that might be in place. Emissions of mercury from production and end-of-life treatment of the bulbs are also considered, providing a life-cycle perspective. Net reductions in mercury over the entire life cycle range from ?1.2 to 97 mg per bulb depending on the country. The consequences for atmospheric mercury emissions of several policy scenarios are also discussed. While fluorescent lighting is an important technology for reducing electrical energy demand, mercury used in the bulbs is an ongoing concern. Using state and country level data, net emissions of mercury from the marginal use of fluorescent lightbulbs are examined for a base year of 2004 for each of the 50 United States and 130 countries. Combustion of coal for electric power generation is generally the largest source of atmospheric mercury pollution; reduction in electricity demand from the substitution of incandescent bulbs with fluorescents leads to reduced mercury emissions during the use of the bulb. This analysis considers the local mix of power sources, coal quality, thermal conversion efficiencies, distribution losses, and any mercury control technologies that might be in place. Emissions of mercury from production and end-of-life treatment of the bulbs are also considered, providing a life-cycle perspective. Net reductions in mercury over the entire life cycle range from ?1.2 to 97 mg per bulb depending on the country. The consequences for atmospheric mercury emissions of several policy scenarios are also discussed.

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Authors

  • Matthew J. Eckelman

  • Paul T. Anastas

  • Julie B. Zimmerman

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