African countries lead in efforts towards eliminating Toxic Lighting materials

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), the Clean Lighting Coalition (CLiC) and the Children’s Environmental Health Foundation (CEHF) Zambia have applauded a proposed amendment by the African Region to phase out fluorescent lamps at the next Minamata Convention on Mercury.

In a joint statement availed to the Lusaka Star, the ZMWG, CLiC and CEHF stated that all fluorescent lights contain mercury.

They stated that broken or discarded bulbs haphazardly release the toxic substance mainly into the air, where it can accumulate and affect the food chain, posing a risk to human health, wildlife, and the environment.

“Millions of discarded lamps contribute to the global buildup of mercury in the environment. Government studies also suggest that, under certain conditions, toxic lamp breakage can pose an acute health risk, especially to infants or young children who linger near where the bulb broke,” explained Rico Euripidou a member of the ZMWG in South Africa.

The working and coalition groups explained that if the proposed amendment is adopted, the amendment would lead to a global phase-out of most fluorescent lighting products by 2025, resulting in massive cost savings, reductions in mercury pollution and cuts to global electricity consumption of up to 3 percent.

“We congratulate the leadership of the Africa Regional Group in accelerating the global transition to clean, mercury-free lighting,” said Rachel Kamande who is also the African Lead with CLiC.

Ms. Kamande explained that there were alternatives that were safer and more energy efficient, as well as less expensive.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the African Center for Environmental Health (CACEH) in Cote d’Ivoire, Dominique Bally Kpokro stated that Mercury in lighting was a public health concern in Africa, where proper disposal and recycling facilities are hardly ever available for consumers, government, or the business community.

Mr. Kpokro who is also a member of ZMWG, stated that by embracing the transition from Fluorescent lighting to more healthy lighting equipment, African governments would stop using the continent as a global dumping ground for hazardous fluorescent lighting.

And CEHF Chairperson in Zambia Michael Musenga who is as well  a member of ZMWG , expressed that adoption of the proposed amendment would keep 232 metric tons of mercury out of our homes and businesses by 2050 – including both mercuries used in lamps, and the mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants that would be avoided through lower electricity use for lighting.

Background: LED lighting is highly cost-effective because it is so much more efficient than other technologies. LEDs consume half as much energy and last up to three times longer than fluorescent bulbs, paying for themselves in lower energy costs within just a few months of purchase.

On a country level, LED lighting reduces strain on the electric grid, reducing the need for costly investments in power plants.

A global phase-out of common fluorescent lighting by 2025, as proposed in the amendment, would reduce global electricity demand by 3 percent and avoid 3.5 gigatons of climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to removing all passenger cars from the road, globally, for a full year.

In addition, many African businesses that manufacture LED lights or LED lighting components, and the sector is poised to grow rapidly over the coming decade.

Fluorescent lights are viewed as an efficient alternative to more energy-intensive options, and risks associated with the small amount of mercury in each bulb were tolerated as a necessary trade-off and major advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology over the past decade have made LED a cost-effective alternative to replace virtually all types of fluorescents.

The Clean Lighting Coalition is a global partnership to capture the health and environmental benefits of eliminating mercury-based lighting.

The Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of more than 110 environmental and health non-governmental organizations from over 55 countries, which strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from anthropogenic sources. www.zeromercury.org

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Tapela Lungu

Tapela Lungu is an award-winning writer and former Media and Communication studies student at the University of Zambia who has a strong passion to write, read and explore. He was the Managing Editor for the online magazine. As a writer, he has a strong interest in human interest stories, community news and stories that impact human development and health.

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