People are scared. This hit me today in studio at CBC as I was doing a live-to-air segment on Newsworld (interviewed by Suhanna Merchand from Toronto) about concerns that UV radiation from CFL bulbs can cause sunburns and other medical conditions. I’m often called to give this kind of interview, and I’m increasingly comfortable doing so, even though it’s weird to sit in a dark closet with just a camera and try to act as if you’re having a friendly chat.
The other issues I’ve been asked to address since 2006 are legit: Mercury, safe usage, energy savings/empowerment of communities … But the radiation issue is different, and I think it’s a sign. If people are really worried that there’s a minute chance that being within 10″ of a light bulb could cause a slight skin irritation, there’s something wrong out there.
And I said as much. When I told Suhanna that Project Porchlight had mobilized 10,000 volunteers to hand out now close to 2 million bulbs and that we’d not had one complaint of a sun burn from a bulb, and I commented that, “based on what I have seen, the bulb is safe,” Suhanna jumped on me.
“Why should we accept that broad generalization? Who have you hired to find out if these are safe?”
So I kind of lost it and just called the whole issue “bogus.” Then I held up an 8×10″ colour picture of a coal plant belching smoke, and cited an Ontario Medical Assoc. study that says 9500 Ontarians die prematurely each year because of pollution, and told her basically to get over the radiation issue. Because it’s bogus.
That felt good.
I was feeling like I’d recovered ground once I pulled out the coal plant prop, but I probably took things too far when I told Suhanna that if she spends long periods too close to a light bulb that maybe there were other issues we should discuss. I’ve already received email from avid readers who swear by their handy articulated-arm desk lamps. Back off!! (from the lamp).
The thing is, there are massive problems we could be talking about, problems that I would rather be talking about. Like those coal plants. Or the fact that people who can’t pay their electric bills because the mill or auto plant is laying off will probably not sweat over a bogus and unsubstantiated risk if they think that changing all the bulbs in their house will save them $1000, which it will.
I tried to get that message in there too. But my time was up. The next story was about “Obama Fashion.”