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Company: General Electric
Subject: Mercury in Light Bulbs
Year: 2009
Sector: Electronics Retail/Manufacture
Lead Filer: As You Sow Foundation
Outcome: Withdrawn for constructive dialogue

Whereas: Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) manufactured by General Electric Co. are positive, energy-saving products that save up to 75% in energy costs and last far longer than incandescent bulbs. However, CFLs contain mercury and therefore pose health risks to consumers when broken requiring appropriate package labeling and risk disclosure.

Ed Yandek, chairman of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Lamp Section Technical Committee has stated that “it is to the lighting industry's advantage to limit the total mercury content of CFLs and to work with all stakeholders so that CFLs are managed in an environmentally responsible manner at end-of-life."

We appreciate that General Electric’s lighting division is working to limit the amount of mercury in bulbs and has signed on to NEMA’s voluntary commitment to limit mercury in CFLs.

Current technology requires mercury for operation of fluorescent lamps, but accidental exposure to mercury in the bulbs through consumer breakage poses potential threats to environmental health.  Overexposure to mercury can result in respiratory failure, affect kidney and brain functions, and cause long-term neurobehavioral problems in children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy (http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/toxic_contaminants/pdf_zip/Mercury_postSRP3.pdf 
p 1).

EPA has established a level of safe exposure of mercury in the air at 300nanograms/cubic meter.  The Centers for Disease Control consider minimal risk to be at 200nanograms/cubic meter.  Studies indicate that a broken CFL with 5mg of mercury can produce mercury vapor levels well in excess of these levels – from 8,000 to 150,000nanograms/cubic meter

(http://mpp.cclearn.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/final_shedding_light_all.pdf pp 4, 6, 7).

Consumers need disclosure of the precise amount of mercury present in each individual lamp, not an average or range, in order to make informed purchasing decisions based on environmental impact and potential threat to human health. Packaging should also include information on clean-up procedures to be followed by consumers when bulbs break as recommended by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Resolved: Shareholders request the company to adopt a policy of labeling its CFL products to disclose the precise amount of mercury contained in each fluorescent and mercury-containing lamp, and to provide information on special procedures for safe clean-up recommended by EPA if lamps break during normal service or handling.

Supporting Statement:  Providing mercury content information on the package will give GE brand products a potential advantage over its competition. It will provide a valuable service to consumers in situations where CFL breakage could pose health threats to family members or pets. Providing clean up information with each package allows consumers to be informed and ready to follow proper procedures before accidents happen, eliminating the need for urgent calls to local authorities after product breakage.


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