NISKAYUNA, New York (Reuters) - General Electric Co is working to cut the amount of mercury in energy-saving fluorescent lightbulbs which have soared in popularity.
Residents and businesses are buying up compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) because they reduce power bills as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming. CFLs use only one-fourth to one-fifth the energy of incandescent bulbs producing the same light and can last 10 years.
The corkscrew-shaped devices are made by many companies and on average contain about 5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic metallic element, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Five milligrams is tiny amount, about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, and much less than the amount that was held in old thermometers. But with sales of CFLs hitting 150 million units last year, and more expected this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried that most of the bulbs are ending up in landfills instead of being recycled.
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