Ban means popular lightbulb soon won’t be for sale in Vermont stores

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:27 PM EST
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SHELBURNE, Vt. (WCAX) - Say goodbye to a popular lightbulb. An upcoming ban means you won’t be able to find it in stores anymore.

This past May, Vermont passed legislation that prohibits the sale of fluorescent lightbulbs and tubes that contain mercury.

Starting Feb. 17, 2023, the sale of mercury-containing, screw-based compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, will be banned.

“It’s just good to get mercury, which is a neurotoxin, out of the waste out of our homes and out of the waste stream and out of our environment,” said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project.

Experts say mercury, which is the highly toxic heavy metal inside CFLs, gets released into the environment when bulbs are discarded. The contamination affects fish and wildlife.

“That gets into the fish, gets in our environment and eventually gets taken up in people... We do need to still pay attention to certain predatory fish that have very high levels like swordfish, shark, walleye and tuna fish,” Bender said.

In humans, increased exposure can create nervous system, kidney and liver damage, as well as impaired development in children.

“In the case of fluorescent lighting, when a compact fluorescent light breaks, according to a state of Maine study, the mercury levels in the in the room for a young child or pregnant women are much above the allowable limits and present a risk to the developing fetus,” Bender said.

Even though the ban won’t start until after the new year, stores across the state have already gotten rid of all of their CFL bulbs and replaced them with LEDs.

“Would you be able to find a CFL screw lightbulb to buy? No, no, they’re really not something that are on the market anymore. And then better than that, too. We actually have just gone through all of our lightbulbs as a company and we completely rebuilt our sections,” said Leigh Gamble of Aubuchon Hardware in Shelburne.

In most cases, screw-based LED bulbs can be used in fixtures that formerly contained CFLs.

“We’ve actually had a whole bunch of new products come in because of this ban that’s helped us you know, help people re-outfit garages and set up their storage spaces in better and more efficient ways. And we’ve been able to subsidize some of the costs as well for the consumer,” Gamble said.

If you still use CFLs or have them in your possession and want to get rid of them, you can bring them into most hardware stores so they can be properly disposed of.

Never throw out a mercury-containing light or any other thermometer or a thermostat or any other mercury-containing product. It needs to be treated as a hazardous waste,” Bender said.

“We’re happy to take them here,” Gamble said.

Environmentalists say the ban is a great step forward for both the health of Vermonters and the earth as a whole.

“It’s not like we can wave a magic wand but the steps are in place. The policies are in place to ensure that we have a mercury-free future,” Bender said.

The ban won’t end with CFLs; starting Jan. 1, 2024, a ban on the sale of general-purpose four-foot-long linear fluorescent tubes will take effect.