Why Bureaucrats Should Never Choose Your Lights

While looking for some further information on good and bad petroleum energy news, this report popped up. Think of this post as a place marker for the Baron; he’s sure to read whatever I put up when he gets back so this bit of good news will warm his heart.

Via RealClearEnergy a
link to the Independent brings a story which sounds a lot like what the Baron began to do when he heard about these new improved light bulbs, but well before he knew about his macular degeneration:

How would you view a man who’s stockpiled a lifetime supply of old-fashioned light bulbs because he believes low-energy bulbs could lead to blindness?

I’d view him as someone who plans to stay one step ahead of the regulatory harms that bureaucracy inflicts on average folks. But that’s just little ol’ paranoid me…and the doctors cited below. -D

You might well dismiss him as dotty. But the man in question, John Marshall, is no crank. In fact, he’s one of Britain’s most eminent eye experts, the professor of ophthalmology at the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology.

So concerned is he that he has boxes stacked with old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs at home.

“I bulk-bought incandescent light bulbs before the government made it illegal to import them,” he says. “I have enough to see me out.”

You have to admire the good doctor’s choice of words – i.e., buying enough to ‘see me out’. Amusing choice of metaphor; given that he’s English the wording is probably deliberate. It’s also what the Baron did – stock up on his favorite incandescent wattages…though we are still able to continue stocking up on these ‘normal bulbs’ here in La La Land. Go figure.

The Independent has another doctor-witness:

Nor is he alone in his concerns about modern light bulbs.

Another eminent British professor, John Hawk, an expert in skin disease, is warning they may cause sunburn-like damage, premature ageing and even skin cancer. He doesn’t have any low-energy bulbs in his house, explaining: “I have lots of old-style bulbs I bought in bulk when they were available.”

So there you go: compact fluorescent lights cause blindness and skin disease.

[And cell phones cause governmental agencies itching to follow your every move, but that’s a subject for another paranoid rant.]


Here’s the Independent’s explanation of why the EU would rather expose you to those exploding CFLs which can spray mercury everywhere while it burns your house down – yep, all in the name of making your carbon footprint a daintier (albeit contaminated) size:

The EU ban on “traditional” bulbs was aimed at cutting fuel and carbon emissions. The low-energy bulbs – or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), to give them their technical name – are said to use 80 percent less electricity and to last longer.


The concern is about some of the light rays emitted at high levels by these bulbs, says Professor Marshall.

Recent scientific evidence shows these specific rays are particularly damaging to human eyes and skin. Light is made up of a spectrum of different coloured rays of light, which have different wavelengths. As he explains: “Light is a form of radiation. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy it contains. The most damaging part of the spectrum is the short-wavelength light at the indigo/violet end of blue.

“Incandescent bulbs did not cause problems, but these low-energy lamps emit high peaks of blue and ultraviolet light at this wavelength.”

In the same way ultraviolet rays in sunlight can cause premature ageing in our skin if we get sunburnt, there is a similar situation in the eye, says Marshall.

“You shed skin every five days, but your retina is with you for life.”

The retina at the back of the eye is vital for sight – it’s made up of light-sensitive cells that trigger nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where visual images are formed.

Sustained exposure to ultraviolet light wavelengths from CFLs increases the risk of two seriously debilitating eye conditions, macular degeneration and cataracts, the professor claims.

If I remember correctly, that report at The Independent contained some EU bumpf about why you didn’t need to worry, though it failed to discuss seriously the mercury or the real problem with the nightmare bulbs:disposal.

Last year I called our county administrator to ask where we could take these mercury bulbs after they’d burned out. She said she didn’t have a clue and that the county supervisors hadn’t voted on the subject. My guess is that they all have stashed their own ‘real’ light bulbs and are throwing whatever CFLs they have into the local dumpsters where they will go to dwell forever in our landfill. Since this county also makes ends meet by taking in Yankee trash, you can bet a future generation will have to ask about the toxic level of our dump sites because their kids are getting strange diseases.

On the other hand, given their present and more pressing problems, do the fine folks in, say, Trenton, care what they send us? Or rather, are they playing caveat emptor here? They need our space to dump their trash and we need their money. Despite any exclusions about what they’re permitted to send us, somehow one is inclined to think the issue never rises to the level of moral imperative in New Jersey, even as individuals hide their used CFLs in empty coffee cans…wrapped in wads of silencing plastic bubble wrap. Just to be safe.


What that report failed to mention, and no doubt many of our intrepid readers have already figured out, is the solution to CFLs.

Anthony Watts pointed out five years ago to his own great relief that you can swap out to LEDs in place of the mercury bombs:

No matter what you think about the veracity of global warming claims, there’s really not much of an argument anyone can make against improved energy efficiency as a way of reducing all emissions, not just CO2. Literally, CO2 sucks all the oxygen out of the energy efficiency issue. The goals of full spectrum pollutant reduction can also be accomplished via improved energy efficiency, and with much less rancor, in my opinion.

I’ve never liked the twisty fluorescent bulbs, even when practically given away. They are slow to illuminate, don’t live up to manufacturer’s lifetime claims, and contain toxic mercury making them a disposal hazard. Watts to like?

Up until now, I hadn’t liked the color temperature of the light that LED bulbs had put out. They were mostly a harsh blue-white. Now, that’s been solved.

So that was my weekend project, improving my energy efficiency. It was painless, fast, and the result was fantastic.

People in Britain ought to check out the comments there. Someone left a link to a UK site for these bulbs…and I used one as a grow-light in our kitchen during the winter. In addition, I found a magnifying lamp for the Baron that uses an LED bulb. They remain cool to the touch and have a better spectrum than those mercury bombs.

Finally, if you want to look at mercury in the environment, see here. They have a book that agw skeptics will love:

Bass Ackwards: How Climate Alarmists Confuse Cause with Effect


Note: this post would have been up hours ago but I got quite lost in You Tube videos about exploding CFLs. I’ve decided to remove the only twisty one we have in the house and replace it with one of Edison’s. The initial cost of LEDs is high, but they draw little current. So it looks like a one-at-a-time project. Besides, we have shelves full of the Baron’s folly to use first. With his eyesight, he gets to choose what kind of light to see by.

23 thoughts on “Why Bureaucrats Should Never Choose Your Lights

  1. Just some thoughts from a bulbphile…

    The UV claims are a bit dubious. Its true that CFL lights use Blue/UV light from excited mercury vapor to excite phosphors, but most glasses are opaque to UVA/UVB, and its almost entirely blocked. To actually get UV requires the use of special envelopes that allow it to pass (UV germicide lamps, for example). Even regular tungsten filament bulbs emit up into the UV as they are black body emitters, but soda glass blocks most of it.

    The most dangerous lamp types from a UV standpoint are the metal halide HIDs, as they will emit COPIOUS amounts of UV if the envelope of the bulb is damaged. Every so often you hear stories of people in gyms getting bad sunburns when an HID lamp is damaged. The mercury is a definite problem. Most have only micrograms, but Ive seen some with blobs of mercury in them. The elemental mercury by itself is hard to absorb and isn’t that dangerous in the home, but when its converted to its oxidized state out in the environment, it becomes a lot more toxic and then gets into the food chain where it does its real harm.

    As for the fire issue, glad to see Im not the only one who has had that happen. The switching power supplies (electronic ballast) in them have bipolar transistors that can go into thermal runaway if they overheat and are not designed properly. I don’t use them in anything but fully open fixtures so they have airflow to keep the electronics in the base cool.

    And for what its worth, I also have a lifetime supply of regular dirty bulbs 🙂 I just like them better than the curly fries or the LED stuff.

  2. LEDs still have a ways to go when it comes to being universally applicable in general lighting applications, a journey they will likely never complete. While the LEDs themselves may last for tens of thousands of hours, the driver electronics often don’t, especially not when drenched in potting compound and stuffed inside a hot heatsink as is the standard design for most LED lamps nowadays. The often loathsome Chinese components that many manufacturers use to cut their build costs just exacerbate matters.
    And ‘white’ LEDs have a pronounced emission spike in the blue part of the spectrum, which may be almost as bad as UV when it comes to photodegradation of things like the sensitive bits of one’s eyes.
    Then there is the substantial amount of radio noise that most LED lamps give off, as proper filtering is either impossible due to size constraints or omitted for cost reasons.
    And people thought I was nuts for getting thousands of proper lamps years ago.

    • No, not nutz at all. “Thousands of proper lamps” sounds wonderful.

      But your comment reminded me: thank heavens that back in the days when the Baron was employed, we had a carpenter build shelves everywhere. This was a house without a basement or attic, and no shelves or closets (well, there was *one* closet). Nary a cabinet to be seen…and for years I lusted after storage spaces. It took years to add them on but now we have Enough, thank heavens. Enough to store those rows of packages of electric bulbs.

      And enough bookcases, thanks to Kindle and reading interests that change as one’s life changes…Not to mention the joy of kitchen cabinets! Whee! And a few counters on top of the cabinets.

      Life is indeed wonderful when we have enough to see us thru to whatever the next by-the-skin-of-our-teeth episode will be. Enough gumption, enough perseverance, enough energy (almost). And enough love. Always that. So that no matter what we have, it is an abundance of having.

      Now if I only had a maid…or two. And a gardener. And a sous chef. And a laundry fairy…

      • Good news! Obama just ‘released’ thousands of maids, gardeners and maybe even a chef or two. They’ll be readily identifiable as their MS 13 tatoos should be displayed over various body parts.

  3. I’m indebted to a previous commentator on this site for the information that there is still one company in the US that still manufactures incandescent bulbs. They have some kind of “divine” dispensation from the feds to do this.

    Aero-Tech Light Bulb Co.
    Located in Illinois I think

    I recently ordered some and was glad I did.

    • “They have some kind of “divine” dispensation from the feds to do this. ”

      Does that not sound remarkably like some state sanctioned monopoly? In Illinois maybe you say? Gee, not that it’s needed, but that doesn’t add anything to the coincidences and appearances does it?

      • Illinois is not really his bag – it was a state of opportunity. I doubt he’ll return. Wanna buy a slightly used mansion? No, NOT cheap. They will grab the last dime from the last grasp of the last true believer who happens by.

        Illinois is every bit as corrupt as it was before the vapor trails of Obie Wan appeared. For now, the Chicago Way is in the Oval Office doing its thing. But in 2016 some other part of the apparatus will be there…

        …for the time being.

  4. Dymphna:
    I bought a couple of the CFLs when they first came out, and then I read about a young mother somewhere in Maine. She was about to use one to replace an old bulb, when she dropped it and it broke on the floor. Aware that there might be a problem, she called I cannot recall what local authority. Quickly a hazmat team showed up, evicted the mother and child and took over the house to clean it up. I was so impressed that I never bought another one of those green boondoggles.

    Your remark about wishing for a maid, a gardener, etc. reminded me of the time I was poking through a library ( you remember, those big buildings with towering dusty shelves) and pulled down an author whose name I recognized–Emily Post. I will never forget one of the chapter titles: “Poor Mrs. One-Maid,” about a poor soul who could not afford a proper staff. Yes, “the rich are not like us.”

    • Indeed they’re not. For those who inherit wealth, it’s a not-knowing. For those who acquire it, the task is to forget. I prefer the former; they tend not to be mean-spirited.

      But envy is a dragon that can invade any class, any level of having… Obama has eaten our lunch just by leveraging the envy of the poor and the fear of the rich. And on the way has made himself very very wealthy…

      Once beyond having to worry about food, shelter and clothing we have two choices: to live in a sense of abundance or to exist in the certainty of not enough. The latter condition prevails in those it afflicts no matter how much they have.

      A study I read years ago (back when I went to those now obsolescent libraries) said that many people lived with the desire for more. It was a manageable “more” – they wanted about 25% more than they had currently because then they could afford whatever it was they were in the midst of panting after: a better car, a bigger house, more vacations, etc. Or, in my case, storage space.

      A local woman, quite poor by anyone’s standards, won a large jackpot lottery. I forget now how much it was, but I do remember that the payout was quite sizable. The first thing she did? She bought a shiny new – and sturdy – door for her trailer. I never asked her about it, but I figured the door represented *her* “25%-more” dream. In other words, it would’ve taken about a quarter of her previous month’s income to purchase that fine door…

  5. Here in London, one can still find 60w incandescents in independent shops, but 100s are rare, and both seem to have a shorter life than of old. In chain & department stores, forget it.

  6. I work at a government archives, and we had one of those twisty bulbs explode on us. Fortunately it was during work hours so that we could quickly respond to it-otherwise there might have been a lot of burnt records. But hey, the loss of government transparency and historical research capability would be a tiny price to pay for promoting the latest left-wing/utopian agenda, umm, wouldn’t it?!

  7. I wonder if I should visit Norway?
    Do they still sell/use those old-fashioned light bulbs?

  8. IIMO that the whole lightbulb thing is a scam. Sylvania and GE wanted to produce a product that cost 10X+ the product they were producing.
    We have had these stupid light bulbs blow out within 3 months of installation. Why? They can’t stand vibration. The books were cooked and we are the rubes.
    Contact your elected officials and demand that the incandescent bulb be allowed to be sold again. (we actually had one blow out in less than a month.)

    • That’s not going to happen. Those criminals were inundated with petitions not to pass that legislation and they did it anyway…you have to figure out work-arounds…as in LED lights. Very expensive but they last forever. See the link to Anthony Watts’ description in the post.

      Or see if you can buy some incandescent bulbs. What great “in” does our Dollar General store have that they’re still selling them? The Baron continues to tote them home and store them on his light bulb shelves.

      • I’ve got you beat… I have a whole cabinet in the garage now stuffed to the gunnels! A few years ago we tried the “new” bulbs and as I said, they blow out. I started hoarding soon after that.

        I am reminded of when low flush toilets became the law in CA. We had one installed in the upstairs bathroom. The toilet flooded so many times that it collapsed the ceiling on the first floor. Once I found my 5 year old hiding under his bed because he had flushed the toilet and caused a flood! Silly me, I thought little boys didn’t flush toilets!

        • I wouldn’t support mandating low-flush toilets, but when they are done right, they work well. Depending on how much you pay for your water, it might make a significant difference.

          I’m currently trying to upgrade an old French toilet to a dual-volume flush… You chose the appropriate button according to your needs. The ones I have used are fine.

          Are you sure your flooding was related to low-volume flushing ?

  9. The EU bulbs we have in the UK are useless. Less light emitted [regardless of what we were told beforehand] and I find I have to sit right beneath them to get the benefit as the light tail off is greater. Certainly my eyes strain more. Useless things imho. I’m using reading lamps with 60w bulbs now. Shops just don’t have the 100w anymore. Bureaucrats would rather people went blind. Thanks for that link Robert. Favourited.

  10. You lucky Americans ! Here is again the Aero Tech link :


    Honest-to-God incandescents with the normal light output the modern man needs : 100 watts, not the puny 60 watts which passes for a “maximum”, now that governments have decided it’s better to keep us in the dark — and not only metaphorically.

    You can even pick up 150 or 300 watts bulbs if that’s your fantasy. Clear, frosted, you name it. No need to wonder whether they will fit in your existing appliances. No need to worry whether the bulb will be standing up, because putting it heads down would fry the electronics. No need to worry that your enclosed lighting fixture might reduce the lifespan of an expensive CFL, or even pricier LED. (They do, and even Cree explicitely states that their top-of-the range LEDs will last significantly less in that case.)

    Aero Tech lamps are supposed to withstand vibrations better than traditional incandescents, to better resist power surges, and to last a ridiculous 20 000 hours, which is 20 times as much as the banned bulbs — and at least twice as much as most CFLs !

    Also, they are dirt cheap : 2 $ each in 6-packs (plus shipping).

    All this while being manufactured in America. (So it seems we do not always “need” to import cheap, run-of-the-mill consumer products from China, because our labor costs are too high.)

    If their claims are true, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t, Aero Tech has proven that the former incandescents were the product of a rigged market, a racket of planned obsolescence, thoroughly milked for what it was worth, before being used to justify the next racket, CFLs, and now LEDs.

    Aero Tech lamps can be bought direct from the manufacturer (minimum order of $ 30), but you can also buy 20 000-hours incandescents from this American online retailer (it’s not clear whether it’s the same brand) :


    Bulborama also has other 100 watts incandescents, some with intermediate (but lengthy) life spans such as 5 000 or 10 000 hours, including bizarre technologies such as “3-way” (packing three different wattages in the same lamp).

    Also have a look here (still an American e-tailer) :


    They state that 100 watts are now banned but still seem to hold them, so maybe they run on stocks.

    Naturally, those providers are of no use to 230-volts Europe. I’ve spotted a tiny minority of 230-volts offerings here and there, but I doubt they ship overseas, and if they did, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

    That being said, I’ve researched Cree’s LED offering, on which the top post is based, and I must say they seem to have made an impressive breakthrough.

    From what I understand (but do check with their site and retail sources, I’m not 100 % sure I’ve got it right), Cree, an American manufacturer, has put out two remarkable offers more or less suitable for home use :

    1. A directional lamp, suitable for replacement of halogen reflectors in ceilings or above kitchen work areas, for instance. The top post is based on this. It uses a new technology devised by Cree named True White, mixing white and yellow LEDs to produce a light exceptionally close to incandescent light, pleasant to the eye and respecting colors.

    Not only it’s warm (2 700 or 3 000 °K), but the CRI (colour rendering index) is very high, something like 0.93 (1 is the top score, meaning illuminated objects will have their true colours).

    The first limitation is this lamp emits only 650 lumen, which makes it the equivalent of a measly 50 watts incandescent. This can be compensated by configurations where the fixtures are both directional, and several lights are used to illuminate one room or area. Maybe Cree has an upper-range lamp producing more than 650 lumen, but I doubt they have reached the 100-watt equivalent of 1 600 lumen.

    The second limitation is the price : the author spent 85 $ on each lamp (several are required for a single room), and the recommended price is 98 $ ! So for the time being, this technology is still not really geared to home users, and will be found primarily in shops, businesses or other public surroundings.

    2. An ominidirectional lamp, suitable for replacement of incandescent bulbs with no change of fixtures at all. Most LEDs are not omnidirectional, and that’s a big problem which almost never gets mentioned, since most home lighting fixtures were designed for the Edison bulb which practically radiates on 360 degrees. The Cree lamp radiates all around, and closely looks like a traditional bulb.

    It also matches the “100-watt” barrier which has been so difficult to reach for LEDs, offering an output of 1 600 lumen. It gives out a nice warm white of 2 700 °K (“daylight” versions exist at 5 000 °K if that’s your choice –- more blue).

    However, the color rendering is not as exceptional as with the True White lamps, being announced only at “more than 0.8” – still supposed to be good.

    But, the price is right (or at least looks so, do the math) : Cree seems to have striked an exclusive deal with Home Depot, and the price for a 100 watts replacement is 20 $ :


    The complete range :


    A 60 watts equivalent is only 7 $ !

    This does not seem available in Europe yet.

  11. A word of caution. Because of dimming vision, I stocked up on not only 100w but also 200w, using them in a lamp that had previously accepted up to 130w. After several episodes when the bulb blew out and took the lamp’s wiring with it, and the subsequent re-wiring, an electrician looked at it and informed me that the 200s were burning out the contact after prolonged use. I downgraded to 100w and have had no problems.

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