As governments and environmental advocates are increasingly encouraging citizens to use compact fluorescent lightbulbs to decrease the emission of carbon dioxide, a toll is being paid by Chinese workers who produce the mercury-filled bulbs. From The Times:
Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.
Doctors, regulators, lawyers and courts in China – which supplies two thirds of the compact fluorescent bulbs sold in Britain – are increasingly alert to the potential impacts on public health of an industry that promotes itself as a friend of the earth but depends on highly toxic mercury.
Making the bulbs requires workers to handle mercury in either solid or liquid form because a small amount of the metal is put into each bulb to start the chemical reaction that creates light.