General Electric to Phase Out Mercury, Why Can’t Healthcare?


If you’re familiar with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), you might be surprised to hear that lighting giant GE has decided to quit manufacturing and selling coiled CFLs in the U.S. by the end of this year as they move toward light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

CFLs came to market in the 1980s in an effort to reduce energy waste in households. CFL bulbs were more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, and while LEDs were even more efficient, they carried a high price tag. With time and research LEDs have improved in price and  their longevity of over 20 years makes that price pay itself back year over year. In addition, light from LEDs can be less harsh and the bulbs are dimmable, unlike CFLs. Overall, the compact fluorescent did not impress customers with its harsh white light, warm-up time and concerns about mercury vapor in the bulbs.

GE reports that the LED bulb “needs 80 percent less energy than CFLs, gets bright instantly and doesn’t contain any mercury, a toxic heavy metal that requires special recycling.”

The phasing out of CFLs in the consumer space is a great leap forward for the lighting industry — so why can’t healthcare make the same leap?

A study by the Maine Environmental Protection Department found that a broken lamp-size CFL could leave significant mercury vapor in the air for over an hour. According to the EPA, this could mean acute risk for a child or adult if the vapor were inhaled. Larger bulbs left 55 times the EPA mercury vapor limit:

Results when a 26 watt CFL was broken in a room ~ 11’ x 12’ with a 10’ ceiling — a room similar in size to the average patient room. 300 ng/m3 is the EPA limit (Reference Concentration) for exposure to elemental mercury.

Mercury lamps used for UV disinfection in hospitals also contain mercury. Like the CFLs, a bulb can break and potentially expose people to toxic mercury vapor. Following GE’s lead,  we think that hospitals should part ways with continuous mercury lamps and move to  Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots™.

Xenex’s bulbs contain inert xenon gas. These bulbs contain NO TOXIC MERCURY.  If one were to break, nothing bad happens. When pulsed, they instantly produce the full, germ-killing spectrum of UVC light. There is no warm-up time. And in terms of efficiency, Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots™ provide the only UVC room disinfection that has a 4 minute  disinfection cycle for C.diff., one of the hardest pathogens to kill. The effectiveness of Xenex Robots at reducing infection rates has been demonstrated in multiple Peer Reviewed Published Outcome Studies. Hospitals using Xenex have repeatedly reported significant drops in infection rates within the first year, which means a fast return on investment.

Let’s hope healthcare takes GE’s lead and moves away from the use of mercury lamps for disinfection and toward environmentally-friendly xenon lamp technology.

Learn more about Xenex and Pulsed Xenon UV disinfection now in our Resource Center.

Credit xenexadmin