Friday, January 04, 2008

Heat, but Little Light

Energy Saving Light Bulb
A Health Hazard?
I don't mind doing my bit to save the planet if, that is, it needs saving; the common sense stuff at least. I do almost exclusively use public transport, but then I live in Greater London, one of the few places in the country where this is remotely possible. I do most of the basic recycling that lies within the bounds of reason for my relatively modest consumption, albeit more from a general aversion to waste than any great belief that it is saving planet Earth from some rather nebulous potential catastrophe.

I have also replaced over time most of the high wattage bulbs in the flat with energy efficient equivalents. This has not prevented me enjoying the beginning of a skirmish between two of my more loathed self-important interest groups, the zero-risk-tolerance health lobby and the enviro-fundamentalist likes of Al Greenpeace, over the news that energy efficient bulbs may present one or more health risks, above and beyond churning mercury into the environment.

With both lobbies being granted most-favoured busybody status by the current government I suspect that health and environment ministers may find themselves firmly impaled on the horns of a dilemma. It would have been better had this happened when the incumbents of these rolls were the truly appalling Hewitt and the increasingly irritating Miliband, but you can't have everything. Better still, according to the BBC article, their own Disability Discrimination Act may come back to haunt them, as those with sensitivities to the conditions in question may be able to claim a legal right to have access to old style incandescent bulbs.

The Devil, on the same news, also points out that their room for manoeuvre is somewhat limited, as since this is an issue of petty bureaucracy and limiting choice for the consumer that the EU is supporting an outright ban anyway. I did think that it wasn't a done deal in Brussels, but I shall defer to his marginally greater loathing and much greater knowledge of what the scumbags over there are up to.

In an earlier article on other alledged health risks with the bulbs, a campaigner on behalf of those who suffer from migraine pleads:
"We would ask the government to avoid banning them completely, and still leave some opportunity for conventional bulbs to be purchased."

Source: BBC News

I fear the spokesperson's words will fall on deaf ears, for in the world of officialdom, a banning that is not complete and absolute is like having sex wearing a reusable 19th century condom. In the case of our lords and masters in Brussels an even greater climax can be obtained by combining the ban with a little bit of protectionism for European markets for the substitute product. Common sense and pragmatism are forms of wrongthink for those bureaucrats whose limited talents deny them the capability to employ either.

Even for those who can't complain about a medical condition, there remains the simple fact that for anything other than basic functional lighting that energy saving bulbs are absolutely useless. Anyone who believes otherwise has either made the fatal mistake of reading a Greenpeace press release or some manufacturers carefully worded non-claims, or in the alternative considers that a couple of bare fluorescent tubes in their kitchen/dining room constitutes 'mood lighting'.

For all the appalling devastation I may be causing I will be stockpiling, in advance of their banning, a collection of the 20-40 watt standard incandescent bulbs and even lower wattage halogen bulbs (also fundamentally incandescent technology with an uncertain future) that I actually use in very limited quantity on a day-to-day basis. Their eco-friendly cousins will serve admirably for illuminating the smallest room in the house, and for when I'm doing my rare whip round with the vacuum cleaner.

On another minor rant...Is there anybody out there who actually believes the claim that part of the extra cost of these bulbs is offset by extended lifespan? In my own case, in a modern flat with a healthy mains supply, they seem to have an attrition rate the same, if not worse, than their predecessors. I understand that this is because it is unwise for them to be switched on for less than fifteen minutes, but am unsure how I am meant to get round this problem, especially in the case of the aforementioned toilet lighting.

I can only assume that at some point our ever helpful government will spend a few million to help educate us on the answer:
"Pee slower to save the planet"

"Take a shot in the dark to save the human race" (probably coupled with a "Men - Sit's now the law" reminder for obvious reasons courtesy of the leader of the Commons)

"Cross your legs, not your fingers for the future of the Earth"

Never forget, the capacity of Government for stupidity is the only truly limitless resource our planet has to offer.

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