One of the main reasons new lighting technology is being pushed so hard is the environmental impact of the technologies currently in, use such as florescent tubes.
These technologies have some significant pollution issues that are not present in LED lighting technologies, such as:
- Mercury Emissions – CFL’s, like all fluorescent lamps, contain small amounts of mercury as vapour inside the glass tubing. Because mercury is poisonous, even small amounts are a concern for landfills and waste incinerators where the mercury from lamps may be released and contribute to air and water pollution. In the U.S., lighting manufacturer members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) have voluntarily capped the amount of mercury used in CFL’s. In the EU the same cap is required by the RoHS law.
The amount of mercury in a fluorescent lamp varies from 3 to 46 mg, depending on lamp size and age. Newer lamps contain less mercury and the 3–4 mg versions are sold as low-mercury types. A typical 2006-era 4 ft (122 cm) T-12 fluorescent lamp (i.e., F32T12) contains about 12 milligrams of mercury.
- Safe Disposal – Health and environmental concerns about mercury have prompted many countries to require spent lamps to be properly disposed or recycled rather than being included in the general waste stream sent to landfills.
In the European Union, CFLs are one of many products subject to the WEEE recycling scheme. The retail price includes an amount to pay for recycling, and manufacturers and importers have an obligation to collect and recycle CFLs. Safe disposal requires storing the bulbs unbroken until they can be processed.
Three areas where LED technology really shines are:
- Fully Recyclable – LED lights can be taken to standard recycling centres and disposed of without any special considerations for hazardous materials.
- Safe – No glass is used in the manufacturing of LED’s so there is nothing that can shatter and pose a health risk. This makes it a much safer alternative to current lighting technologies not just from a personal point of view but also in retail, commercial and industrial applications. One example might be a supermarket with food preparation areas, a broken light could be a serious health risk in an area such as this.
Another consideration from an employers point of view is risk assessment, a maintenance free lighting solution means no one will be required to climb up and down ladders and as LED is low voltage, no one is going to electrocute themselves changing a lamp.
- Heat – LED lights give off very little heat compared to standard lighting. This allows you to reduce costs by minimising certain considerations such as Air Conditioning.