Trudeau government now phasing out mercury lightbulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs had previously been promoted by cabinet. The bulbs were advertised as an alternative to traditional Edison lightbulbs, which contained no mercury.

Trudeau government now phasing out mercury lightbulbs
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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Trudeau's environment minister has banned the sale of compact fluorescent bulbs, despite them once being touted as being climate-friendly.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced the ban of the items, saying that it was "crucial" to "protect the health of Canadians."

“As a known toxic substance, mercury has been managed in many ways over the past fifty years. We’ve seen the release of mercury into the air and water decline by half since 2007. It is crucial that we continue to protect the health of Canadians and their environment, while encouraging businesses to transition to safer alternatives," Guilbeault said in a statement.

Under amendments to the Products Containing Mercury Regulations, a statutory ban on the sale of household bulbs containing trace amounts of mercury will be phased in starting December 31, 2025, Blacklock's Reports. The ban will apply to products such as tube fluorescent and screw-in compact fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury.

“The main objective of the regulations is to protect Canadians by lowering the risk of mercury releases into the environment from products in Canada,” writes the Department of Environment in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement. “Mercury is a global contaminant,” it said.

Compact fluorescent bulbs had previously been promoted by cabinet. The bulbs were advertised as an alternative to traditional Edison lightbulbs, which contained no mercury.

A 2003 campaign gave away 200,000 compact fluorescent bulbs and drove sales of 27 million mercury bulbs a year.

“Are compact fluorescent bulbs safe? Yes!” a federal fact sheet reads. “They have a minute amount of mercury. If they break they do not pose a health risk.”

The bulbs were promoted by the likes of David Suzuki, but the Department of Environment would eventually have to acknowledge the risks posed by the product.

“Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage as it will spread the mercury vapour and dust,” warned the advisory. “Sweep up the broken pieces with two pieces of stiff paper,” “use sticky tape to remove any remaining glass or powder,” “place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass container with a tight fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour” and “immediately place waste material outside of the building in a protected area away from children.”

In 2017, Parliament passed Bill C-238, An Act Respecting the Development of a National Strategy for the Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury. “There are probably 100 million of these bulbs in Canada,” said Liberal MP Darren Fisher, the bill's sponsor, at the time.

“How many people know?” said Fisher. “How many people, when they throw that mercury-bearing light bulb in the garbage, even give it another thought?”

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