The rest of the envirohorror story

The Local Beat column by Chris Graham

Interesting editorial in today’s News Virginian about the supposed dangers of CFL bulbs.

It would have been more interesting had the paper done even cursory research into the case of the Maine woman whose horror story illustrated the supposed dangers associated with the small amount of mercury contained in the energy-saving bulbs.

As it turns out, it only took typing the name “Brandy Bridges” into Google to find an item on the investigative website debunking the horror story at the heart of the editorial.

As it had been told, in today’s NV and also on the ultraconservative website (in April 2007), Bridges accidentally dropped a CFL bulb in her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom, then had to seal the bedroom at the bayonet of a $2,000 estimate from a hazmat contractor to clean up the mess.

And now, the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey might say. According to Barbara Mikkelson at, Bridges was concerned that she should not just vacuum up mercury, not knowing exactly how much mercury is contained in the standard CFL bulb, so she called the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. For whatever reason, the state told Bridges that she should call a hazmat contractor – department officials now agree that they overreached in giving that advice – and in a subsequent call to a contractor Bridges was told that the cleanup cost would be $2,000.

Rather than pay that cost, Bridges sealed her daughter’s bedroom with plastic and tape. For the record, it’s not still sealed, despite the assertion to the contrary in today’s editorial piece. The Maine DEP helped take care of the cleanup two months after the original incident.

So the story here isn’t what we were told in today’s paper – that CFLs are pulsing with “myth, contradiction and, of course, mercury.” It’s not that environmentalists dwell in a “sophistic strata” and “dimly lit celestial space.” It’s that a government agency whose focus is on environmental issues gave a taxpayer bad advice – and that a newspaper didn’t do its homework.

But hey, it would have made for a nice illustration of how wrongheaded environmentalists are – you know, if it were true.

augusta free press news