Reduce Toxic Mercury in Light Bulbs

Environmental Advocates Support this Bill

Explanation: 

Mercury is dangerous to human health, yet it is found in items we use on a daily basis, like some light bulbs. If these bulbs break, mercury can be released into the surrounding environment. This bill will set standards for the allowable levels of mercury in fluorescent light bulbs.

Since fluorescent light bulbs are a highly effective means of reducing energy use — which in turn reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions — it is important that the mercury contained in these bulbs is properly managed and limited. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that exposure to elemental mercury may cause, among other symptoms: tremors; emotional changes; insomnia; neuromuscular changes; headaches; and other disruptions of the nervous system.

There are no U.S. standards limiting the amount of mercury that can be contained in light bulbs, but the European Union (EU) has established maximum mercury content standards under its Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

This legislation adopts EU standards for compact fluorescent light bulbs and some of the more common linear fluorescent bulbs. Several other states, including Maine, California, and Vermont, have already adopted EU standards. 

Summary: 

This legislation establishes maximum mercury content standards for general purpose fluorescent light bulbs sold in New York, and authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish regulations for mercury content standards in all light bulbs. Starting January 1, 2018, it prohibits the sale of several common types of general purpose fluorescent light bulbs if they exceed the maximum mercury levels listed in the law. Special purpose lights are explicitly exempted from these restrictions until December 31, 2018.

Memo #: 

22