From August 2023 it will be illegal to sell fluorescent tube bulbs in Switzerland, reported RTS. Switzerland follows the EU in banning these mercury-containing bulbs.
Fluorescent tubes typically contain around four milligrams of the toxic metal, which is essential for making them work. This amount of mercury is relative small. By comparison, some older thermometers contain around 500 milligrams of the temperature sensitive but highly toxic liquid metal.
Phasing out these bulbs to reduce the amount of toxic mercury in circulation makes sense now that more energy efficient LED lighting is available.
Mercury poisoning symptoms include muscle weakness, poor coordination, numbness in the hands and feet, skin rashes, anxiety, memory problems, trouble speaking, trouble hearing, or trouble seeing. The english term that refers to a crazy person being “as mad as a hatter” is thought to relate to mercury poisoning. Hat makers in the middle ages, who used mercury nitrate in hat rims would often suffer poisoning from handling the material which would make them act oddly or as mad as hatters.
No mercury is released when fluorescent bulbs are intact, but vapour and small beads of mercury can be released when a bulb is broken so it important to dispose of the bulbs carefully.
Banning these bulbs does not necessarily mean changing light fixtures. Tubes made using LED technology that fit old fittings are available.