U.S. House Expected to Vote on Repeal of Incandescent Light Bulb Ban Week of July 11

Lawmakers Encouraged to Consider Welfare of Public When Considering Fate of Industry-Led Ban on Incandescents

Washington, D.C. – On or about July 11, the U.S. House is expected to vote on H.R. 2417, the “Better Use of Light Bulbs,” or “BULB Act,” to reverse the 2007 de facto ban on the sale of most incandescent light bulbs in the United States.

Promoted by lobbyists representing domestic incandescent bulb manufacturers who wanted the federal government to mandate the use of higher-profit alternative bulbs, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 essentially made the sale of most incandescent bulbs illegal as of January 1, 2012 by imposing upon them efficiency standards incandescent bulbs cannot meet.

“In 2007, 60% of the House and 65% of all Senators voted for a de facto ban on most incandescent light bulbs, and then-President Bush signed it into law,” said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “They did what industry lobbyists and green groups told them to do at the risk of the health and wallets of the American people.”

“Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, are the main alternative to incandescents. CFLs emit a narrow band of light compared to incandescents. Some consumers, especially seniors, have difficulty reading or doing fine work under fluorescent light,” added Ridenour. “More seriously, CFLs flicker. The flickering makes seizures more likely among people who are prone to them. Seizures can be harmless, but they also can cause brain damage, accidents and/or death.”

“The best known danger of CFLs is the mercury within them, which is released if the bulbs break during use or disposal. The EPA recommends a ten-step process for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb on carpeting and an eleven-step process on a hard floor. Then later, while doing routine vacuuming, homeowners are encouraged to turn off their air conditioning or forced-air heating for five or so hours and leave open all their windows to help disperse any remaining airborne mercury,” Ridenour continued. “If it is -20 degrees outside at the time, your government says, either freeze or don’t vacuum. And, if you break a bulb in one of those energy-efficient buildings in which the windows don’t open, you’re just screwed.”

Ridenour was drawn to the light bulb ban issue because one of her children, eleven-year-old Jonathan, is severely autistic.

“Because he is severely developmentally disabled, Jonathan does not understand the danger of knocking over a lamp,” said Ridenour, “regardless of what type of bulb it contains. Yet he’s a normal, energetic boy otherwise, and breaks a few bulbs a year. If we switch over to CFLs, how much mercury will our house contain in a few years? Rather than find out, we’re stockpiling incandescents. And because Jonathan is among the one-quarter to one-third of autistic people who are prone to seizures, even if they did not contain mercury, CFLs could be dangerous for him.”

In March, the New York Times featured comments by Ridenour and a picture of her with her son Jonathan in front of the family incandescent bulb stockpile in a page one story about the forthcoming ban.

Ridenour also addressed the potential danger the incandescent bulb ban could mean to refuse collectors: “It may seem silly to mention it, but we have to face facts. Most people are not going to drive their old CFL bulbs to a formal disposal center as recommended. They will throw old bulbs in the trash, where many of them, if not broken already, will break. In 20 years, will trial lawyers be running ads seeking clients among garbage men with mercury exposure the way they currently seek out clients exposed to asbestos while shipbuilding? Wouldn’t it better for everybody, except maybe trial lawyers, if we didn’t throw our collective mercury at garbage collectors? Aren’t their jobs miserable enough already?”

The National Center For Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters. Its 2010 revenue was over $12 million. It receives less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions are welcome and appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.