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The Consumer

CFL: It saves on energy, but must be handled with care

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The nongovernment environmental organization Ban Toxics! has just released the results of a comparative analysis of different compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) sold in the Philippines.

CFLs are replacing the old incandescent bulbs in more and more homes, offices and commercial establishments. They use considerably less energy which, of course, means lower power bills—quite important these days with the steady rise in electric rates.

But the study, done in collaboration with the Zero Mercury Working Group and European Environmental Bureau, cautions users that CFLs contain some amount of mercury. The good news is that most CFLs sold in the country have a mercury content that is “considerably lower than the current 3.5 milligrams limit set by international standards.” But some have much higher contents. One product tested registered a mercury content of 17.47 mg.

The moral of the story is that not all CFLs are created equal, so consumers have to choose wisely. Most likely, the products with high mercury content are much cheaper. Consumers may be saving money by paying less for CFLs and having lower electric bills, but if they do not choose carefully the products they buy they may end up spending more for medical bills. Mercury can cause very serious health problems.

The other thing consumers should also be careful about is disposal. Because of CFLs’ mercury content, even if it is just a tiny amount, old bulbs should be disposed of properly so the chemical element is not spilled.

Reacting to the Ban Toxics! report, Philips, probably the biggest lighting manufacturer in the world, assured Filipino consumers their products adhere to local standards. Ria Nuñez, product manager for Philips Philippines, said, “We maintain that…our products, and their respective packaging, fully comply with the requirements of the Department of Trade and Industry, which actively upholds and safeguards consumer rights by ensuring that the products they approve (for release in the market) are safe for public use.”

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Derrick Johnson of Baybay, Leyte, wonders why he cannot find plain tomato sauce in Ormoc City supermarkets anymore. What he sees on the store shelves are spaghetti sauces. Johnson says he not only prefers to use tomato sauce for his spaghetti but also takes two spoonfuls every day because of lycopene, which has many health benefits.

Retired Judge Ignacio R. Concepcion wants to know why his wife, a homemaker, is not receiving the P500 monthly allowance which presumably the Caloocan City government announced would be given to senior constituents. The judge understands if he is exempted as he has a pension, but he does not know why his wife, who is not employed, is not receiving the benefit.

A former colleague who retired early advises people who are individual members of the Social Security System to pay the maximum monthly premium charged by the agency so they can also get the highest monthly pension set by SSS when they claim their retirement benefits.

Eli Canta says nobody advised him about continuing his membership and paying the highest premium, so he is getting only a very small amount as retirement benefit from SSS.

Of course, individual members will have to pay for both his/her share of the premium and the employers’. As of January 2007, the maximum SSS monthly contribution was P1,560, with the employer paying P1,060 and the employee P500. Without an employer to take care of the employer’s share, individual members will have to pay the entire amount by himself/herself.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph.


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