While the Switch LED lamp featured as one of the 50 inventions of the year [TIME, November 28, 2011] is certainly a laudable (but far-from-unique) development, the writer’s comments about incandescent lighting and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are appallingly inaccurate.
Incandescent lighting is not being “effectively [or in any other way] outlawed” in the U.S. “Traditional” incandescent lighting is a 125-year-old technology that is, by today’s standards, grossly inefficient and costly. But new, far more efficient incandescent lamps are available and more will be introduced, for those who appreciate the color and dimmability of incandescent lamps, and who – like the squib’s writer – fail to realize that the same color and dimmability are readily available via CFLs that use far less energy and last up to 15 years, and so cost far less to own and operate.
As for the “poisonous materials” in CFLs, the writer is, I assume, referring to mercury. In fact, however, the average swordfish contains 20 times more mercury than the average CFL, and especially the CFLs offered by major-brand manufacturers. Nor is disposal of CFLs a problem, given that disposal is an infrequent need and CFL recycling centers are ever-more common. And as for CFLs being “largely unpopular,” data show unmistakably that popularity is increasing rapidly, given the significant cost and environmental benefits CFLs provide for those who use them and, in fact, for the nation – and all peoples – as a whole. Compared to incandescent lamps, CFLs are new. As people learn more about the facts, they will use CFLs more; for TIME to discourage their use through journalistic slap-dashery is unfortunate. Which is not to say that CFLs are better than LEDs or any of the other new forms of high-efficiency lighting, all of which reduce resource waste and the coal-fed-energy consumption that creates far more mercury emissions than even improper fluorescent-lamp disposal. We have new choices. We need accurate information to choose wisely.