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With the market for light bulbs or “lamps” changing so quickly the Federal Trade Commission has proposed new labeling requirements in response to a congressional mandate. It seems there are so many “new” types of lamp available that there is a need for consumers to have more information available to them on the packaging. The FTC announced that they are seeking comment on new labels.

One of the main focuses will be on labeling that stresses luminosity rather than wattage. With the old incandescent bulbs being phased out there is a need for more explanation on the newer style lamps. The most common of these are the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and the light emitting diodes (LED,s). There is concern that many consumers are not sure what they are getting in terms of lightness, life of the lamp, and actual energy savings. Switching to a labeling system that shifts the focus away from watts is seen as a major step in defogging the light issue.

Lumens measure units of “luminous lux” – the total number of ‘packets of light’ created by a source. A lux is the unit of illumination. Wattage on the other hand measures the power that is used to operate the light source. This is really the basis behind the newer types of lamp or bulbs. They produce the same brightness (lumens) with less power (wattage). Lumens, wattage and estimated energy costs would be displayed on the front of any lighting package.

On the back the FTC intends to use a ‘facts’ model, which is based on the model used for food nutrition facts. This would provide further useful information to the consumer enabling decision making based on informed choice.

As well as providing information about brightness and lamp life color temperature will also be included. For different areas in the home, or office, a different color may be needed. Knowing whether the lamp you are choosing produces a warm or cool light is important.

Of great concern to many people is that while compact fluorescent and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps certainly save energy, they also contain the toxic chemical mercury. This has produced much discussion and debate over how safe they are to use, and the issue of safe disposal of used lamps. Thoughtful recycling is certainly being encouraged. The FTC proposes that mercury levels would need to be disclosed not only on the packaging but on the light bulbs themselves.

Last year the FTC issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, gathering comments on existing label requirements and possible alternatives. A public roundtable conference was then held to discuss findings. This new proposal is the next step in the fulfillment of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 enquiry.

The FTC website describes how people can view the proposal and submit comments. The cut off date for commenting is set at December 28 2009. Further information can be found – ((FTC File No. P084206; the staff contact is Hampton Newsome, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2889; see press release at:

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