NBC PROMOTES TOXIC CHINESE LIGHT BULBS
By Cliff Kincaid & Andy Selepak
The Alliance for Climate Protection, which is part of Al Gore’s Live Earth campaign, tells people that by using compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, they can save energy, save money and live longer. But they fail to mention that the bulbs are made in communist China and are potentially hazardous to human health.
Proceeds from this weekend’s Live Earth concerts will go to the Alliance for Climate Protection, chaired by Gore.
GE-owned networks, MSNBC-TV, CNBC and NBC, are extensively covering the concerts. But GE is under fire by its own workers for promoting the CFL bulbs while making them in China. The website www.screwthatbulb.org tells the story of how GE is plugging into the green bulb movement while moving American jobs overseas.
Do you think you will see this mentioned by any of the rock stars appearing at the Live Earth concerts? Do you think coverage of the concerts by the GE-owned networks will mention this? Do you think MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann will name GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt as the “worst person in the world?”
Don’t count on it.
NBC Ignores U.S. Jobs
NBC is not only taking one side in the debate over the causes of global warming and climate change, it is taking the side of its parent company, GE, which makes “green” light bulbs in Red China at the expense of American jobs and workers.
Calling it the “music event of the year, if not the decade,” NBC says that Live Earth “will bring together more than 100 of today’s hottest artists and two billion people to focus the world’s attention on the global climate crisis and what can be done to reduce global warming. The networks of NBC Universal will broadcast nine legendary concerts from the seven continents, all raising awareness of the solutions to the global climate crisis.”
The NBC broadcast of Live Earth is hosted by Ann Curry, an anchor for the NBC News Today Show.
Point one in the “commitment to change,” featured on NBC’s website, declares, “Replace those old, outdated light bulbs with new compact fluorescent lights?CFLs (the curly ones you can find at your local grocery or drugstore). They last longer and use less energy than traditional bulbs.”
But those “curly ones” come with a price?a price NBC does not want you to know about.
The screwthatbulb website points out that “Since 1980, employment in GE lighting has dropped by 68 percent. If everyone switched to the Chinese-made CFL bulbs, all U.S. plants would close.”
In a display of total hypocrisy, “GE supported a European Commission ban on Chinese-made CFLs…so CFLs bought in Europe are manufactured in Europe,” it reports.
Hence, GE is selling out its American workers to build a toxic light bulb in China that may poison Americans while encouraging Americans to buy the bulbs that will put more GE workers in the U.S. out of a job. The circle of absurdity will make your head spin.
Making a profit while making toxic light bulbs and outsourcing jobs to China is a bit much, even for a company whose MSNBC subsidiary considers Keith Olbermann a credible newscaster.
Pelosi Also Going Green
Nevertheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is another public figure who wants the U.S. to go green by buying Red. In fact, she wants CFLs installed in the Capitol Building.
According to the June 25, 2007 issue of Newsweek magazine, this past March, Pelosi “called for a plan to make the House of Representatives a model of sustainability.” Part of the plan is the addition of “12,000 compact fluorescent bulbs.”
An article in the April 9, 2007 issue of Time magazine, entitled: “51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference,” Maryanne Murray Buechner touts the benefits of compact fluorescent light bulbs, saying that, “CFLs cost three to five times as much as conventional incandescent bulbs yet use one-quarter the electricity and last several years longer. They are available virtually everywhere light bulbs are sold.”
But there is a potential problem. Buechner reports that, “each bulb still contains 5 mg of mercury; you’re not supposed to toss them out with the regular trash, where they could end up in a landfill. So the bulbs are one more thing for you to sort in the recycling bin.”
But recycling CFLs is not as simple as Buechner suggests. The bulbs can not just be sorted in the recycling bin because most areas don’t offer CFL recycling. Even NPR reported on February 15, 2007, “The bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, and the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them.”
Pete Keller, who works for Eco Lights Northwest, the only company in Washington State that recycles fluorescent lamps, told NPR that while it is illegal to put the bulbs in the trash in some parts of Washington, most people throw them away anyhow.
NPR reported, “Some states, cities and counties have outlawed putting CFL bulbs in the trash, but in most states the practice is legal.” It added that “Even cities that have curbside recycling won’t take the bulbs. So people have to take them to a hazardous-waste collection day or a special facility.”
If they are put into the trash and then a landfill, the released mercury could be released into the ground and into the groundwater. If the bulbs break in people’s trash when they throw them away, or in people’s homes or offices before they have even been used, people are exposed to the toxic threat.
According to the EPA website, an individual is exposed to elemental mercury “when elemental mercury is spilled or products that contain elemental mercury break and expose mercury to the air.” Exposure to mercury can lead to the following symptoms: “tremors; emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness); insomnia; neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching); headaches; disturbances in sensations; changes in nerve responses; performance deficits on tests of cognitive function. At higher exposures there may be kidney effects, respiratory failure and death.”
The Washington Times reported on May 3, 2007, that it cost one Maine family $2,004.28 to clean up the toxic mess from just one broken CFL, and that it would “take 16,667 cubic meters of soil to ‘safely’ contain all the mercury in a single CFL.” But, for those who don’t want to pay to have the toxic mess cleaned up, the Times article explained the procedures for cleaning up the mess from a broken CFL, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The procedure is provided on the Maine DEP’s Web page entitled, “What if I accidentally break a fluorescent bulb in my home?” According to the site, if you break a CFL:
Don't vacuum bulb debris because a standard vacuum will spread mercury-containing dust throughout the area and contaminate the vacuum. Ventilate the area and reduce the temperature. Wear protective equipment like goggles, coveralls and a dust mask. Collect the waste material into an airtight container. Pat the area with the sticky side of tape. Wipe with a damp cloth. Finally, check with local authorities to see where hazardous waste may be properly disposed.
Although the bulbs are potentially a biological hazard and expose the environment to a dangerous toxin, Wendy Reed, who manages the EPA’s Energy Star program, told NPR that the EPA gives the bulbs the EPA’s “energy star” seal of approval.” Reed also told NPR that although “fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, using them contributes less mercury to the environment than using regular incandescent bulbs. That’s because they use less electricity?and coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of mercury emissions in the air.”
Reed continues, “The compact fluorescent light bulb is a product people can use to positively influence the environment to…prevent mercury emissions as well as greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s something that we can do now—and it’s extremely important that we do it.”
This is basically the Al Gore line. The Alliance for Climate Protection tells people, “Fortunately, the mercury in the bulbs is much less than would be released by coal-fired power plants providing your electricity for incandescent bulbs.”
In other words, do your part to pretend to be cutting down on world-wide mercury emissions, even though you and your family may run the risk of being personally exposed to more of a toxic mercury danger.
Both the EPA and Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection emphasize that the bulbs should be recycled. But NPR notes that the biggest sellers of the CFLs, such as Wal-Mart, “haven’t stepped up to the plate” to offer places for safely disposing of the bulbs.
The “Screw That Bulb” group says that GE should also step up to the plate. “Invest in American jobs,” it is telling GE.
But don’t look for any coverage of the point of view of GE’s workers while its media personalities and properties are trying to look compassionate and caring during Live Earth.
The story, however, goes far beyond light bulbs.
The GE Retirees Justice Fund says that Jack Welch, former GE CEO, gets $800,000 a month in retirement benefits. That’s $9.6 million a year.
By contrast, GE worker retirees average $766.80 a month for 38.1 years of service.
Will Keith Olbermann name Jack Welch as the “worst person in the world?”
Again, don’t count on it.
© 2007 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights
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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues.
Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.
Andy Selepak is a writer at Accuracy in Media and can be contacted at:
But NPR notes that the biggest sellers of the CFLs, such as Wal-Mart, “haven’t stepped up to the plate” to offer places for safely disposing of the bulbs.