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New 'green' lightbulbs are... polluting the environment

It'd be funny if it weren't so toxic:

The most popular new light -- the curly cue, compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs -- account for a quarter of new bulb sales and each contains up to 5 milligrams of mercury, a potent neurotoxin that's on the worst-offending list of environmental contaminants.

Demand for the bulbs is growing as federal and state mandates for energy-efficient lighting take effect, yet only about 2 percent of residential consumers and one-third of businesses recycle them, according to the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers.

"If the recycling rate remains as abysmally low as it is, then there will certainly be more mercury released into the environment," said Paul Abernathy, executive director of the Napa-based recycling association. "Until the public really has some kind of convenient way to take them back, it's going to be an issue."

As a result of discarded fluorescent lights, including CFLs, U.S. landfills release into the atmosphere and in stormwater runoff upward of 4 tons of mercury annually, according to a study in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.

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