The Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club irresponsibly aired a photo that it said "allegedly shows what happened to a man after he stepped onto a broken CFL and his foot became infected with mercury poisoning." But the photos, which have circulated online, are believed to be a hoax because the damage they show is unlikely to have come from the small amount of mercury present in energy-efficient compact florescent lamps (CFLs).
The November 27 edition of Pat Robertson's The 700 Club aired graphic images of a foot that was "allegedly" injured from stepping on a broken CFL:
The images originally came from e-mails highlighting what appeared to be a flyer from Caterpillar equipment dealer WesTrac, but that Australian company said that it did not create the document. The images were later circulated in a Salisbury, MD, fire department newsletter, but according to the website Snopes -- which specializes in exposing online hoaxes - fire department officials later stated that they believe they were duped by an "Internet-falsehood":
Although attempts were made to verify the validity of the information, initial Internet searches provided no compelling evidence to dispute the information. We now believe that the information we used as the basis for our April 2012 Newsletter was an Internet-falsehood which started circulating numerous years ago and had an ulterior motive and purpose.
Yet The 700 Club took seriously the claim that someone stepped (apparently barefoot) on the broken remains of a CFL in such a way that the top half of their foot was demolished (see further graphic photos here). Snopes and the Global Lighting Association state that the injury appears to be more consistent with a bacterial infection than damage associated with the small amount of mercury contained in CFLs. While co-hosts Pat Robertson and Kristi Watts suggested you would need to "evacuate" and get a "hazmat crew" if you broke a CFL, broken bulbs can be easily cleaned up by homeowners and do not pose an inordinate risk, according to a Yahoo! News report on research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:
If you do a common sense job of cleaning up (open the windows, clean up, and remove the debris), then your mercury exposure would be the equivalent of taking a tiny nibble of tuna, according to Francis Rubinstein, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab. What if you did the worst job possible, say closed all the doors and smashed the bulb with a hammer? It's still no big deal, says Rubinstein, who points out that it would be the equivalent of eating one can of tuna.
If The 700 Club could not verify the images, it should not have aired them -- and it certainly should not have used them in yet another faulty attempt to rail against the "light bulb socialism" of energy efficiency standards, which were enacted under the Bush administration.