Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Hidden Dangers

Or, Why Melissa Won't Be Testing MV Products

©2002 Melissa Kaplan


I am periodically asked if I have actually used any of the mercury vapor (MV) lighting/heating products for my own reptiles. Stated or unstated is the question as to how can I say they don't work for reptiles if I don't try them myself.

These people are missing the point.

First there is the question of whether the reptiles that are purported to do better under an MV product are actually doing better because of the MV product or because their lighting and/or heat requirements are finally being met. When people say, "my reptile looks/acts so much better", we don't know how closely the person was monitoring the reptile's enclosure before, what the actual temperatures were, the brightness and duration of the daytime lighting they were using, etc. Ask any reptile rescuer and reptile vet: adjust the physical environment so that the species temperature gradients, basking, humidity, UV, and day/night cycles are being met, and most of them will do better.

The biggest problem I have, however, is with the fact people assume these products are safe, just because these products are being made and sold. The problem with this is that there is no proof that they are safe, and lots of evidence that they are not. Since the federal government does not, at this time, consider these MV products to fall into any of their existing regulatory categories, the manufacturers of the made-for-reptile MV products aren't required to submit them for testing nor to adhere to any of the existing regulations that all other mercury and MV product manufacturers must abide by.

If the high levels of UV output are so safe, how come the made-for-fish mercury lighting products are so heavily shielded? Do manufacturers think fish and fish-keeping humans are any more susceptible to the deleterious effects of UV radiation and mercury leaks than are reptiles and their keepers?

There is a huge and continually growing body of research on the effects of prolonged UV radiation (UVR), and mercury in its many forms, on human and animal health. Both UVR and MV are heavily implicated in autoimmune disease, with UVR also rating high in the causes of many eye diseases and cancers. Mercury toxicity is also implicated in mental and neurological health problems, including psychoses and autism.

People who are genetically susceptible to autoimmune diseases and environmental illness rarely know that they have a genetic predisposition to these disorders - not until they fall ill. Then, it can be years before they are finally diagnosed, as there are no definitive diagnostic tests for the majority of AI and EI diseases. Once someone is finally accurately diagnosed, they find that very few of these disorders are curable. For most, there isn't even any effective mediation for the vast array of debilitating--too often permanently disabling--symptoms, let alone any hope of a cure in our lifetime. For far too many of the latter, the treatments that do exist are so expensive to acquire or maintain that most must go without.

What I do not understand is how anyone can recommend these products without full disclosure of the hidden dangers of UVR and MV. When you post a recommendation in an online forum, chat, or articles in your magazines and newsletters, you do not know which of your readers already have autoimmune disease, or which of them are already teetering on the edge of of mercury or UV toxicity, or may be pregnant or nursing, or who will keep these products in their children's bedrooms, or who has an immune-compromised person living in their home who will be exposed to these products. By assuming these products are inherently safe and ignoring the unpleasant information suggesting otherwise, you are not only putting your own health at risk, but that of your family, friends, the strangers you encounter online, and your own animals.

For me, the issue of very high output UVR and MV products isn't a matter of my liking the old ways, the old products, better. The issue is, its very root, a moral and ethical one.

I certainly don't mind if people disagree with me. Most people who aren't directly affected by cancer and autoimmune disease have no clue what life is like for those who experience it first-hand as someone who is sick or as primary caregivers of those who are.

I do mind when people suggest I shouldn't say the things I say, or hold the opinions I do based on all the reading I've done, just because I haven't used a mercury vapor bulb.

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