Sunday, April 29, 2012

CFLs: More Fires, Product Recalls


CFLs: More Fires, Product Recalls

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 1.86 million CFLs due to “700 reports of lamps where the glue failed.” The USCPC order stated: “Hazard: The glue that attaches the glass outer envelope or globe to the body of the lamp can fail allowing the glass outer envelope to fail and strike persons and objects below, posing a laceration hazard to consumers.” The recall order involved Philips and Marathon CFLS, was issued August 11, 2011, and was the largest recall order on CFLs issued to date.

This brings the total recall of CFLs to well over 2 million bulbs.
1, 860,000 Philips and Marathon bulbs
317,000 Telstar and Electra bulbs in 16 models of 12 wattages
124,000 Trisonic bulbs
Total: 2,301,000 CFL bulbs recalled for posing danger to consumers. Yet the government, CFL producers and energy companies continue to promote these dangerous product—and even subsidize them!--while ignoring or trying to dismiss the dangers.

For more information on the above recalls, plus descriptions from people who experienced fires or explosions from CFLs, see our comprehensive report for the Science and Public Policy Institute at: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/cfl_fires.pdf .

Besides the fires and explosions from CFLS listed in that SPPI report, below are additional examples including recent ones in 2012 and 2011. These are compiled from various websites, some of which do not list dates. Notice, too, there are many complaints about the bulbs not living up to their advertised life spans:

I went to turn on the switch to my kitchen lights - it controls 2 recessed lights - and one exploded into thousands of pieces. I'm still scared about what could have happened. I could have been holding a baby! The light bulb exploded all over the counters and the floor. Nothing was left except the metal screw part in the socket which I have to call an electrician to get out. This happened 2-16-12. The next day, I went out and replaced 12 floods with the old fashioned bulbs. Still, I'm very upset that this could happen to anyone who uses them.” --Lorraine of Malvern, PA on Feb. 19, 2012

I was replacing a light bulb with a GE Helical 13W bulb. The end of it exploded as i screwed it in, without the light being turned on. Shattered glass flew all over my entryway and kitchen. I was lucky, and only got scratched. Thankfully, my five year old was at school, or it most likely would have gotten on him, since he likes to watch and help with things like that.” --Kim of Bloomington, IN on Dec. 12, 2011

These lights are junk, they lasted from 2 days to 1 month. One [GE bulb] blew up in an enclosed fixture”--michael of herminie, PA on March 6, 2012

The GE Helical 26w bulb that I had installed in a ceiling light for about six months was on for a couple of hours and just exploded. My wife was under it at that time and got glass all over her. She had no cuts, but I wonder, do these have mercury?” --bert of lusby, MD on Sept. 13, 2011

I purchased and installed two 26W helical floodlights on Nov. 14, 2010 and they failed almost at the same time, three months later. Now, I'm stuck with the cost (no receipt), but it's worth the price learning to avoid buying GE products in the future. Having read comments on potential fire hazards, I count myself lucky that they failed safely. This issue resulted to me being out the cost of the bulbs, together with associated aggravation.” --Wm. of Atlanta, GA on Feb. 17, 2011

I've bought two packages of the GE CFL lights that are dimmable. These go in can lights that look like a flood light. Both packages will stop working or will flicker. What is going on? If you have new ones, please send me eight bulbs. Thank you for your time.” --Jim **jim of Wyandotte, OK on Aug. 10, 2011

Certainly we've had a few that truly lived up to their hype and have lasted forever. But the overwhelming majority of them have died absurdly premature deaths, usually lasting less than a quarter of the life of the incandescent bulbs occupying the same light fixture. We even had one that burned out by exploding, dropping a milky-white mercury-laden gas down on us as we watched in shock.” --Allen

“”CFL bulb almost burned my house down! This caught on fire in my living room.  Why are these going to be the only light bulbs we can buy after 2012?...I am just reporting this because NO one will listen to me. These bulbs are dangerous, and it is absolutely ridiculous that they are going to be the only bulbs we can buy pretty soon.  Does our government ever see these comments?  I've seen complaints since they were first made. Is there anyone who will listen before there is a death from a fire that these bulbs can cause?”--Dee Mansfield [Editor's note: a death has already occurred from a CFL fire: A official investigator's report found that a 45-year old man, Douglas Johnson, perished from a fire caused by a CFL bulb. See the aforementioned SPPI report.]

“I can't find any complaint link anywhere on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. I have had a bulb explode and rain down glass, put out fumes in my daughter's bedroom!!!” - alemke, Sacramento, California, 27/12/2011 21:22.

I had one burn that was working fine and one that was working with normal light output that exploded with smoke because the voltage was low with the brownout. Never have one on if you are asleep or not home.”--John Oxford, USA 12/28/11

"The second compact fluorescent light bulb to catch fire in my home. These bulbs are hazardous!” --mrsdontuwantoknow on Sep 9, 2010

OMG! That's just what happened to us! My son was in his room, the light started smoking and sparking. Then all of a sudden the bulb part popped off and landed 4 feet away! He turned the light off, let the element cool off and then got the rest out. It was scary and now he doesn't want anything but a traditional bulb.” - Julie, Jacksonville, Florida USA, 27/12/2011 19:23

I have had two cfl lamps explode (different times) in a ceiling fixture in my husband's office (right over his desk.) After two exploded and filled the office with toxic gas I got rid of all of them and bought cases of long-life incandescent bulbs--bless them.”--numonik99

I had one of these catch fire last week in my bathroom. Anyone who thinks it's that uncommon is dreaming.” --LindaVeeSado

So yesterday the same thing happened to me, my bulbs were also sylvania bulbs.” --jimjam187

Yep I've had two do that. One of them was really bad and if I hadn't been home when it happened to turn it off it looked like it could start a fire.” -- -Mercury1955

I have had two catch fire, and just luckily was home, and the bulbs were not around any other flammable items. The bulbs first flicker on and off, then you hear and arc or shorting out of the wiring, then the flame and smoke. -- Chief Parson, Fire Chief, WV

I own and operate a B&B and have the subject bulbs through out the home...I have decited that the removal of these bulbs are a must...This is after one of the bulbs shorted and a flame cause damaged to the lamp shade...Luckily, we were in the room when this occurred, otherwise, this would have been a major disaster.” --Randy

“I had two Maxlite bulbs fail at exactly the same time! I guess maybe one "spiked" the other and they both Melted and burned!! The glas tubes were hanging out at 45 degs. from the base of the lamps!
Surely we need further investigation into these bulbs??” --Paul 1/15/11

Yes the bulb flickered first, which I thought was unusual, but It stopped and began burning properly. I left the room for a minute to get something then before returning the smell hit me. Scared me I thought the house was on fire. I immediatly turned off the switch. This is more scary for me since I am in a wheelchair. I can not remove the bulb. nor can I use the room until its replaced, cause I can't see in there. As far as disposing of them properly, I live in the backwoods of NC and trust me we don't recycle nothing around here, so I don't know what I am supposed to do with these things.”--L. from NC

A CFL bulb caught fire in my home. I no longer trust them”--.SleestaksRule on Feb 4, 2012
[This incident resulted in payment of over $8,000 from insurance company for damage from CFL bulb fire and documented by photographs of the damage.]

Only a few weeks ago I purchased a pack of cfls from walmart and put one in a lamp in my living room. One hour later the thing exploded throwing tiny shards if glass all over that side of the room. Fortunately, no one was sitting next to the lamp when it happened.” --2 months ago TOOANTUH1

A couple of days before Christmas, 2011, my friend Dennis phoned and said his wife just baked some Christmas cookies, and she wanted him to bring some over to me before Christmas. Dennis said he wouldn't come in to visit but just to deliver the cookies, so wouldn't take much time. He said he was going out to return three floodlights that his wife had bought at Home Depot. When she got them home, she discovered that they were not incandescents as she thought. Instead they were CFLs inside an external shell so they look like an incandescent. So Dennis said he would return the CFLs and then would like to come to my house to drop off the cookies. I said that would be fine. When he got here, he said, “You'll never guess what happened. I gave the woman at customer service the 3 bulbs I was returning and then gave her a slip of paper with URLs of the SPPI paper and your website with other information on the dangers of CFLs—and she said, 'you don't have to convince me. I KNOW. I had one blow up on me!'” I have known Dennis for more than 50 years, and I have never known a more honest and honorable person. I can't conceive of him making up this story. Nor can I conceive of the woman making it up either. She was going to accept return of the CFLs whether she said anything or not. She was just doing her job. She would have nothing to gain from making up this story.

Since she was an employee of Home Depot, it was more convenient for her to buy a bulb there than anywhere else, and since Home Depot has very competitive prices, it is extremely likely she bought the bulb that exploded on her from Home Depot. Home Depot sells nothing by ENERGY STAR and UL approved CFLs.

That woman never reported the incident to the Consumer Protection Agency, EPA, MPCA or anyone else, and this I find to be quite typical. Most people think their experience is probably unusual, they don't know who to call and aren't going to take the time and trouble to try to find out. The fire incidents that are reported are just the tip of the iceberg. People in general don't want to make a fuss about this, just want to get on with their lives.
Further evidence of this is John Brazell's experience. A CFL shattered in his motel room. He never bothered to report it or even to notice the brand name of the bulb. He thought it unusual and not something to be concerned about. But when he heard of someone else having a CFL shatter, he thought he should at least warn a few of his friends about this possibility so maybe they could avoid a similar happening. One of the people to whom he sent his email warning forwarded it to me. I contacted John, and he said he didn't want to make a fuss over this, that he was not an activist and wasn't trying to protest anything. He didn't want to file any kind of report with the government or anyone else. I think this is typical of most people who are involved in this kind of incident. That is why I say the number of reported cases is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more go unreported. I don't believe any of the cases of fires and explosions I have cited were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. But they all have a ring of authenticity and I can see no reason to believe they are fabricated. The people have nothing to gain from that; they are not looking for notoriety or fame or they would use their full names. And the government continues to ignore the problems and proceeds with its campaign to eliminate incandescents and force people to buy bulbs they don't want and which can be dangerous to them.

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