Tuesday, February 17, 2015

PSA: The downside to going green

About a month ago we called our local fire department. You see there was this odor. A very hard to describe odor. Perhaps like burning plastic, so we immediately checked the lights on Sandy's tank. For once they were not causing melting any plastic (those bulbs get very hot).

I had been invited to sub that day at PDS and had to leave. Don was still home (he had offered to take Ashley to the bus stop so I could be on time). He kept smelling the odor, so he worked from home.

Fast forward a few hours. Ashley came home. She immediately commented on the odor. I came home. I immediately commented on the odor. By this point, Don had turned off the lights in the kitchen thinking maybe it was related to that? Maybe?

It gets dark early the first week of January. I called the fire department to see what they thought. They were already out on a call and would swing by on their way back to the station.

I said it was a burning smell, but no smoke. They called it into the truck saying we have smoke. Three or four trucks arrived -- not just from our little station, but from Slackwood, too. Big guys with full equipment. We wanted one guy with a good nose to identify the problem.

For once I was too stunned to take a picture, but fortunately Ashley did. 

They were not here long, just long enough to identify the problem as our CFLs dying and emitting mercury. Try to be good for the environment, and you end up nearly poisoning yourself with mercury.

I went outside, swept the latest dusting of snow, and answered questions from the curious neighbors. 

That's it -- next time you smell burning plastic, check and see if it your compact florescent lights (CFLs) dying.


  1. I was fairly sure they only emit mercury if they are broken... clearly, I can't be positive of that, but that was my understanding.

    We've switched to LED lights now. So far as I know there is no mercury in them.

  2. I just can't imagine how they could break when they were in the ceiling fixture (i.e., no cats got near them -- I hope). Others have let out a poof and then done. These still emitted light, as well as the odor. The odor went away when the bulbs were replaced. He also replaced the fixture to be safe.