I-Team report sparks light bulb hearings

December 17, 2008 3:28:43 PM PST
An ABC7 I-Team report on the dangers of energy efficient light bulbs triggered a call for public hearings from Chicago Alderman Robert Fioretti. Several weeks ago, investigative reporter Chuck Goudie told the story of the dangers linked to those popular new light bulbs that are touted as energy-efficient. Our recent I-Team report is shedding light on the dangers of those compact fluorescent light bulbs called CFLs. Wednesday's resolution by 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti calls for public hearings about the risk the energy efficient bulbs could have on the environment.

"I think Chuck Goudie's report brought home the possible dangers of CFLs and these type of light bulbs," said Fioretti.

Alderman Fioretti says people need to know about the dangers CFL bulbs could have on the environment before millions of them end up contaminating landfills.

The curlicue bulbs contain mercury, a toxin that is especially hazardous to children and pregnant women.

"Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means if it gets into the developing brain of a young child or a fetus, it can cause developmental delays and other neurological problems," said the Illinois Environmental Council's Jonathan Goldman last month.

Fioretti is calling for public hearings to be held within the next 60 days.

"We're gonna find out from the director of the Department of the Environment; she will come here to testify, I think come up with a policy, probably some type of regulations, and inform the residents of the city on what should be done in terms of disposal, handling and care of these light bulbs," said Fioretti.

The 2nd Ward alderman is asking the Department of Environment to take an active role in increasing awareness and planning for future mass disposal of CFLs as they become burned out, damaged or broken.

"This is an important issue because the accent is on the future, and if we're going to be utilizing all of these in everyone's home, we need to know how to deal with them," said Fioretti.

The alderman describes his own experience of breaking a CFL:

"In my own home I brought some home to try them. I dropped it and they shattered into so many small pieces I didn't know what to do. And did I follow the federal guidelines? I think they're so complex and convoluted and so many of them that it makes it very difficult for the average citizen, and I'm a lawyer, to understand what should be done in terms of the cleanup of these light bulbs."

Since our original story aired last month, we have had a number of people tell us they never knew the bulbs contain mercury or that there is a detailed protocol the EPA wants you to follow if you break one. That protocol includes evacuating the room for 15 minutes, opening up a window, and placing the pieces in a glass jar. Then you are supposed to take it to the city's household chemical and computer recycling center.


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