This piece was originally published in the October 2018 issue of electroindustry.
Mark Kohorst, Senior Manager, Environment, Health, and Safety, NEMA
Acting on behalf of the Light Source Section, NEMA obtained a two-year exemption from strict mercury content limits for critical lighting products in Louisiana. Had the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) not approved this extension, lamps used for most outdoor lighting systems as well as fluorescent lamps employed in a variety of specialized applications would have become unavailable.
With a maximum of 10 milligrams per mercury-added fabricated product, Louisiana’s mercury threshold is the strictest in the nation. Rhode Island’s law is similar, but it explicitly excludes all fluorescent lamps and commonly used high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. This is no minor technical issue.
As NEMA explained in its application, the broad spectrum of lighting products subject to the statutory threshold includes numerous general service and specialty lighting requirements. HID lamps are the preferred technology for large indoor spaces as well as outdoor sites such as stadiums, roadway interchanges, and parking lots. Other HID products provide the high illuminance and radiance needed for sensitive industrial and medical applications.
Low-volume, specialty fluorescent lamps meet other crucial lighting needs. For example, bilirubin lights are a treatment for jaundice in newborn infants. Infrared lamps are central to heat lamp therapy. Reprographic lamps are relied on for processes that require the use of ultraviolet energy such as platemaking, photoresist exposure, and imaging.
Clearly, a law that prevents or restricts the sale of these products would have enormous economic and social implications. Removing them from the local market would force consumers and businesses to purchase and transport them from neighboring states. This would be costly and unnecessary, especially since the majority of these lamps are recycled at end-of-life and present very little risk of mercury exposure or release to the environment.
The DEQ expressed no reservations about extending the exemption, but Louisiana law limits such extensions to two years, which means NEMA will need to revisit the issue in 2020.