An undated photo shows a woman buying energy-saving bulbs in a supermarket. Chinese people consume 1.4 billion energy-saving bulbs every year, most of which contain mercury. [Photo: heilongjiang.dbw.cn]
Although an energy-saving lamp can save 60 percent to 80 percent on electricity usage and has a much longer service lifespan than an incandescence bulb, it can pollute 1,000 liters of water and 300 cubic meter of air, the Discovery.163.com reported.
Due to costs and technological restraints, Chinese companies are incapable of producing non-mercury bulbs. 0.5mg mercury content in each bulb will poison 1,000 liters of water and further impact soil and crops.
"No matter whether it's buried or burnt, energy-saving bulbs will cause pollution to water and soil." said an official at the Hebei provincial environmental protection bureau.
The official explains that mercury can evaporate at room temperature. If it breaks, each bulb could contaminate 100 cubic meters of air.
Mercury polluted water and air will cause minamata disease, which seriously harms the human's nervous system and potentially cause death.
In China, 1.4 billion energy-saving lamps are used annually. But owing to the high costs of recycling, only three manufacturers deal with abandoned bulbs. Most lamps are thrown away and disposed as common garbage.
On the contrary, the United States and Japan have set up companies and institutions that recycle energy-saving light bulbs, while the EU strictly controls the content of hazardous substances.