The energy saving bulbs show mercury levels 20 times higher than regulations allow in the air surrounding them for up to five hours after they are broken, according to tests released Thursday by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
“If the industry can’t manage to offer safe bulbs, then the incandescent bulbs must remain on the market until autumn of 2011,” said Gerd Billen, the leader of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZVB).
His group encouraged the federal government to push for a suspension of the ban in Brussels until there was a safe and practical alternative.
“It can’t be that the state bans a safe product and replaces it with a dangerous one,” Billen said.
In September 2009, the EU began phasing out incandescent light bulbs in a bid to save energy and protect the environment. Their replacements were meant to be the energy-saving bulbs such as compact fluorescent and LED lights. The complete phase-out of old light bulbs is to occur by 2012.
So far the UBA has tested just two types of lights.
“There was energy savings of up to 80 percent compared to incandescent bulbs, but this should come with safer products that have no avoidable health risks,” UBA President Jochen Flasbarth said, calling the mercury danger the “Achilles heel” of the energy saving bulbs.
Flasbarth recommended that consumers use energy saving bulbs with protective plastic casings in areas such as children’s rooms to avoid the danger in the short term.