WHEELING - Beginning in January, traditional 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs can no longer be manufactured or imported. However, as stores are still allowed to sell any remaining stock, consumers are collecting what they can.
According to Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, incandescents are being replaced by compact fluorescent lights and LED bulbs.
"We're making a change from product to product," Gamble said. "We've done it before."
Photo by Rebecca Olsavsky
Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator Howard Gamble discusses the long-term benefits of switching to fluorescent light bulbs.
Referencing the shift from lead paint to lead-free paint that took place years ago, Gamble said it takes consumers time to accept such changes and "make a switch from a product they have used for years."
"The goal is to reduce the amount of energy consumed," Gamble said.
Although there are consumer concerns regarding health issues such as the mercury content within and the ultraviolet light emitted by CFL bulbs, Gamble said the risk levels are, for the most part, insignificant. The small amount of mercury in CFLs is contained inside the bulb, and such fluorescents "emit a very low level of UV light into a room."
"CFLs do not emit a vapor of mercury unless they are broken," Gamble said. "The amount of exposure of UV light in fluorescents is nowhere near what people get from stepping outside."
In contrast to fluorescent bulbs, incandescent lights do not contain mercury. However, they do emit heat, something which newer, more energy-efficient bulbs are better at reducing.
Gamble added that, although expensive, fluorescent bulbs are also more durable and longer-lasting than incandescents. Further, by looking at the "large picture," he said CFLs, by using less power in individual houses, can ultimately lead to reduced emissions from power plants.
According to Gamble, consumer demand will most likely drive whether smaller or even more energy-efficient light bulbs are made.