Legislation in Brazil and consequences for the country


Phasing out of the incandescent bulbs in Brazil

1. Interministerial Ordinance nr 1007, December 31, 2010

The policy concerning the phase out of incandescent lamps was regulated, in Brazil, through the Interministerial Ordinance nº 1.007, December 31, 2010 (Diário Oficial da União - Seção 1, Nr 4, 6 de janeiro de 2011). More information can be found on (Felipe Carlos Bastos, Análise da política de banimento de lâmpadas incandescentes do mercado brasileiro, March 2011).

Domestic incandescent lamps 127 volt - 750 hours

30/06/2012 30/06/2013 30/06/2014 30/06/2015 30/06/2016
More than 150 20.0 24.0 . . .
101 a 150 19.0 23.0 . . .
76 a 100 . 17.0 22.0 . .
61 a 75 . 16.0 21.0 . .
41 a 60 . . 15.5 20.0 .
26 a 40 . . . 14.0 19.0
Less than 25 . . . 11.0 15.0

Domestic incandescent lamps 220 volt - 1000 hours

30/06/2012 30/06/2013 30/06/2014 30/06/2015 30/06/2016
More than 150 18.0 22.0 . . .
101 a 150 17.0 21.0 . . .
76 a 100 . 14.0 20.0 . .
61 a 75 . 14.0 19.0 . .
41 a 60 . . 13.0 18.0 .
26 a 40 . . . 11.0 16.0
Less than 25 . . . 10.0 15.0
  • The halogen incandescent lamps are excluded from the previous standards.
  • The ban on incandescent bulbs in Brazil was reached by providing for standards of minimal lighting efficiency, out of reach for these lamps.

The dates regarding the manufacturing, import and commercialization of incandescent lamps in Brazil can be summarized as follows: (Análise, p. 86)

2. Some benefits arising from a ban of incandescent bulbs and the substitution by CFLs, according to the paper of Felipe Bastos, with our remarks

  1. Delay of investments for the increase of the energy production
  2. Reduction of the costs of the distribution of electricity (larger capacity of the distribution infrastructure)
  3. Reduction of emission of greenhouse gasses from fossil-fuel fired power stations
  4. Delay of social and environment externalities inherent in the building of power plants
  5. Reduction of electricity costs for households.

a. Reduction of the energy consumption

Only the energy needed for the lighting in the residential sector has been included. The author of the paper concludes that if in Brazil, all incandescent bulbs were substituted by CFLs from January 1, 2012, the reduction of the consumption of electricity should be 7,424 GWh (for the year 2012). The average of the demand of electriciy on each hour of the day should decrease. (Análise, p. 58)

In 2005, the lighting sector represented 14% of the total energy use. This amounts to 12.6% of the electricity consumption in 2012 and 7.2% in 2030, if no CFLs were used. If all lamps were CFLs, however, this would represent only 3.5% of the total energy consumption in 2030.


  • Here only the demand of energy during the use of the lamps is considered and not the demand of energy during the manufacturing of the lamps. On knows that the manufacturing of CFLs demand more energy than of incandescent lamps. This means that the reduction of energy will be lower if the total energy consumption of each lamp were factored in. (Análise, p. 102-103)
  • The cost of the collection and recycling process has to be factored in. The cost of the recycling of one CFL in Brazil in 2010 was R$ 1.00 (see further).
  • It is very important to stress that CFLs and LEDs produce a different type of light in comparison with incandescent light. So, they cannot be called 'substitute products'! A ban of incandescent light bulbs has led to a very reduced choice of light products.

b. Reduction of the emission of greenhouse gasses from fossil-fuel fired power stations

If all incandescent lamps were replaced by CFLs, 660.744 tons of CO2 should be saved for the year 2012. What is the relevance of this figure? According to the IEA (International Energy Agency): " In the hypothetical case that all these [incandescent] lamps were to be replaced by CFLs it would save roughly 800 TWh and 470 MtCO2 emissions in 2010 rising to 1200 TWh and 700 MtCO2 in 2030." (IEA, In support of the G8 Plan of Action, Energy Efficiency Policy Recommendations, 2008, p. 20). This means that the contribution of Brazil to the global reduction of CO2 is only 0.1%. (The population of Brazil is 2.74% of the global population.) It is obvious that when 80% of the electricity is produced by hydro power, the emission of CO2 is minimal.

c. Savings in costs

According to Felipe Bastos, the CFLs are on the average 69.4% cheaper than incandescent lamps. So, at first glance, the consumer can take advantage. The calculation is only made on the product price of the lamps and the electricity cost. However, the damage inflicted to the environment by the emission of mercury and the better quality of light of incandescent bulbs are not factored in. Incandescent bulbs have a warmer and a more agreeable light spectrum than CFLs.

3. The disadvantages of the introduction of CFLs

After a ban, the incandescent bulbs will mainly be substituted by CFLs. The author gives a rather extensive overview of the power factor and the harmonic distortion (See Análise p. 8, 69-73; 99, 102). He concludes that in literature no estimates of the economic impacts due to the total harmonic distortion and the reduction of the power factor have bene found. Neither I will examine this matter further.

On the other hand, Felipe Bastos is conscious of the consequences of the mercury in CFLs:

  • Safety precautions are needed when a bulb is broken and
  • CFLs have to be properly disposed of and recycled.

a. Light sensitivity

Like fluorescent lamps, CFL emit a higher proportion of blue light than incandescent lamps. (SCENIHR, (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks), Light Sensitivity, September 23, 2008, p. 15)

The UV portion of the spectrum is divided into three regions:

  • UVA (315 – 400 nm)
  • UVB (280 – 315 nm)
  • UVC (100 – 280 nm)

The UV content of the emitted spectrum depends on both the phosphor and the glass envelope of the fluorescent lamp. The UV emission of incandescent lamps is limited by the temperature of the filament and the absorption of the glass. Some single-envelope CFLs emit UV-B and traces of UV-C radiation at wavelength of 254 nm, which is not the case for incandescent lamps (Khazova and O´Hagan 2008). Experimental data show that CFLs produce more UVA irradiance than a tungsten lamp. Furthermore, the amount of UVB irradiance produced from single-envelope CFLs, from the same distance of 20 cm, was about ten times higher than that irradiated by a tungsten lamp (Moseley and Ferguson 2008). (Light Sensitivity, p. 11, 16)

The committee notes that the use of double-envelope energy saving bulbs or similar technology would largely or entirely mitigate both the risk of approaching workplace limits on UV emissions in extreme conditions and the risk of aggravating the symptoms of light-sensitive individuals. (Light Sensitivity, p. 4)

In the EU, a preliminary rough estimation of the number of light-sensitive patients who might be at risk from the increased levels of UV/blue light radiation generated by CFL is difficult to estimate. However, a preliminary rough estimation of the worst-case scenario yields a number of around 250,000 individuals (0.05% of the population) in the EU. (Light Sensitivity, p. 4) No studies were found to estimate the percentage of the population of Brazil which is light-sensitive.

b. Impact on the Brazilian economy

  • According to Felipe Bastos, 95% of the CFLs that are distributed in Brazil, are produced in China. In Brazil, only incandescent bulbs and linear fluorescent lamps are produced. The consequences are:
    • Due to the closing down of the companies producing incandescent bulbs, the unemployment will increase. One can hardly imagine that CFLs will be manufactured in Brazil, because Chinese CFLs are supplied at very competitive prices.
    • A larger import of CFLs from China, what will lead to a mild trade gap.(Análise, p. 81) However, due to the increasing demand of CFLs in Latin America, an opportunity exists for the manufacturing of CFLs in Brazil. (p. 82)
  • Before the start of the ban of incandescent bulbs, these lamps can be stored in large quantities by those who prefer the incandescent bulbs. Also, a black market can originate particularly with neighbouring countries such as Paraguay. (Análise, p. 101)

c. No proper collection and recycling program

The phasing out of incandescent lamps and the promotion of CFLs in Brazil, from June 30, 2012 on, is very worrisome because of the lack of an efficient system of the removal of solid waste. (Análise, p. 81) The cost of the recycling of one CFL in Brazil in 2010 was from R$ 0.50 to R$ 0.70. This price has to be completed with the costs of transport, packaging costs and accident insurance, so that the total cost of the recycling process can be more than R$ 1.00 per CFL. (At the end of 2011, the exchange rate was (R$ = BRL) BRL 1.88 to USD 1.00.) The collection and recycling of CFLs is very different from other waste products. The bulbs are fragile, must comply with the regularisations of the transport of dangerous waste, have a low weight and a large volume and don't afford any value at the end-of-life. (Análise, p. 97)

The uncontrolled disposal of CFLs can poison the environment. The mercury vapor of broken CFLs in closed spaces can have noxious effects, especially on children. A large number of the population does not know that CFLs contain noxious materials or what to do when CFLs are broken. According to this website, 94% of the CFLs in Brazil end in landfills!

4. Shortcomings of the paper of Felipe Bastos

No quantification has been made concerning the emission of mercury in the air by power plants in Brazil nor by CFLs. Only is mentioned that in Europe, the mercury emission to air by the production of 1 kWh is 0.016 mg. (Análise, p. 95) [We know that this figure was proposed for an electricity production with 31% coal fired power plants.]

We will calculate here an estimate of the mercury pollution in Brazil through the use of CFLs. According to IEA, in 2008, only 2.7% of the electricity in Brazil was produced by coal fired power plants. Let us suppose that the emission of mercury by the electricity production in Brazil was 0.0014 mg/kWh (= 0.016/31*2.7 mg/kWh). Further we assume that CFLs have a lifetime of 7000 hours (Análise, p. 67). The percentage of properly disposed CFLs is 6%.The result is:

Mercury emitted to air for the production of 1 kWh (mg) 0.0014 mg
Percentage of collected CLFi’s 6%
. Clear incandescent lamp 60W New halogen lamp 42W Compact Fluorescent Lamp 14W
Average wattage 60W 42W 14W
Lifetime (hours) 1000 h 2000 h 7000 h
Total kWh during lifetime 60 kWh 84 kWh 98 kWh
Effective luminous efficiency (lumen per watt) 11.8 lm 15 lm 57 lm
Lumen per lamp 710 lm 630 lm 798 lm
Mercury emitted during the use phase (mg) 0.08 mg 0.12 mg 0.14 mg
Mercury content in lamp 0 0 4 mg
Mercury emitted during the end-of-life (mg) 0 0 3.76 mg
Total mercury emission per lamp 0.08 mg 0.12 mg 3.90 mg
Mercury emitted over lifetime per lumen per hour (nanogram) 0.12 nanogram 0.09 ng 0.70 ng
Result of the calculation of the total mercury emission Regarding environmental impacts, the new halogen lamp is the best choice.

You can test it yourself!

We must ascertain that the incandescent lamps (if we consider the halogen bulb also as an incandescent lamp) are almost seven times less polluting than CFLs! Will the saving of 7,424 GWh in 2012 (and 10,145 GWh in 2030) prevail the cost of the mercury pollution? About 300 million incandescent bulbs and 100 million CFLs are reported to haven been sold in Brazil in 2010. Within some years, the number of end-of-life CFLs will be yearly about 200 million. If each CFLs contains 4 mg Hg, 800 kg of mercury will have to disposed of properly. Globally, the average of CFLs disposed of on the right manner is about 20%. If we apply the same figure to Brazil, 640 kg of mercury will pollute the landfills. In 2009, already 930 kg of mercury from fluorescent lamps was left in landfills (Análise, p. 77).

What is the real cost of this new pollution? It is nearly impossible to clear up the grounds and the groundwater from mercury. The only solution is to prevent that mercury will pollute the environment. There are two ways to achieve this goal:

  • To ensure that all CFLs are disposed of properly, but nowhere this goal has yet been attained;
  • To cancel the whole operation and let the environment prevail over the profit for the electricity companies and the consumers. Mercury containing products which can be substituted by mercury free products, must be banned. So, the logic way is to ban the CFLs and not the mercury free incandescent bulbs.

Brazil is one of the rare countries in the world where electricity is produced on a clean manner, i.e. without any substantial emission of mercury. We ascertain that the incandescent lamps cause no emission of mercury at all, while only compact fluorescent lamps pollute the environment with their content of mercury. It is shameful that the lighting manufacturers promote their mercury containing lamps even in regions or countries untarnished by coal fired power plants, e.g. Iceland, Brazil, California, Sweden, etc. It is almost criminal to distribute mercury containing CFLs in unpolluted regions. The net result will be an enhanced pollution of mercury in the environment and ultimately more mercury in the blood of the inhabitants. The declared eco-friendly CFL is in fact a polluting product that endangers the environment and species.

Moreover, the technology of halogen and incandescent lamps gives a better quality of light than the CFLs. The technology of CFLs is just wrong because it is a toxic technology that is given in the hands of the consumers. Nevertheless, from the beginning, lighting manufacturers have almost exclusively mobilized on the CFL technology. Politicians are also responsible for this evolution towards the misuse of mercury for lighting purposes.


  • The Brazilian government has already been impressed by studies where the energy saving of CFLs have been proven. Besides this, the government has to factor in all the mercury that is needed in the production of CFLs, from cradle to grave. Only after this investigation, they will be able to estimate the pollution track of the mercury (in China, where mercury mines are reopened, where the health of some employees is endangered through excessive mercury levels; in Brazil, where consumers are exposed to the dangers of broken CFLs, where landfills are being polluted on a more and more increasing scale).
  • It is a shame that Brazil promotes the filthy lucre among citizens knowing very well the irreparable noxious effects from the mercury in CFLs and elsewhere. It is much cheaper to prevent the pollution than to clear it up afterwards. Is profit more valuable to the government than the planet?

  • Because of the reasons summed up on this page, CFLs should be banned immediately. Alternatives without mercury are available: halogen lamps, incandescent lamps and LEDs. A cleaner environment tolerates only Hg-free products if viable. For other fluorescent lighting products however, at this moment, substitutes hardly exist.

Last update January 10, 2012