Obama SOTU Vow to ‘Protect Our Kids From Mercury Poisoning’ at Odds with Mercury Light Bulb Support

January 25, 2012 - 4:22 PM

Obama State of the Union

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, as Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, right, listne. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama vowed to protect children from mercury poisoning during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, but that vow seems to be at odds with his administration’s support for replacing the mercury-free incandescent light bulb with the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL), which, when broken, can emit mercury vapor into the air.

“I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean,” the president told Congress on Tuesday evening.

However, Obama’s promise stands in opposition to his administration’s environmental efforts to make the CFL the only choice for American consumers.

The traditional incandescent light bulb, invented by Thomas Edison, was set to be phased out on Jan. 1, in favor of CFL bulbs, based on standards set by an energy act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.

Last year, the Obama administration vigorously defended against efforts to repeal the law.

“We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

Last year, during hearings on legislation to repeal the mandate, a lighting expert testified that mercury is a hazardous material and compact fluorescent bulbs maybe a safety and environmental hazard.

The president’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns against the dangers of compact fluorescent bulbs that break and offers detailed instructions on “What to Do if a CFL Breaks in Your Home,” since CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, and when broken “some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor” the EPA brochure stated.

“To minimize exposure to mercury vapor,” the government explained, “EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on this page.”

The instructions include: “have people and pets leave the room,” shut off central air or heating, and “open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.”

People then need, “Stiff paper or cardboard, Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape), Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces), Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s),” the instructions state.

The EPA warns in capital letters: “DO NOT VACUUM” since “Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor," and instructs to use a glass jar “since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping.”

For future cleaning of carpeting or rugs, the EPA says: “The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming.”

If implemented, the law essentially makes the expensive CFL the only light bulb available to Americans.

The standard had been set to commence January 1, but was temporarily blocked by the Republican-led House of Representatives, which added a provision to stop the Obama administration from implementing the law into the continuing resolution to fund the government though fiscal year 2012.