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EU Regulation to KILL Lamp Projectors for Mercury Hazards

by February 29, 2024
EU Regs to Terminate the Projector Lamp

EU Regs to Terminate the Projector Lamp

An upcoming European Union regulation is about to shut down lamp-based projectors across the continent. Starting January 1st, 2026 the powerful Metal halide and UHP (Ultra High Performance) light-bulbs commonly used in DLP and LCD projectors for home theater, office and in classrooms will no longer be available. It shouldn’t be a surprise when similar regulations arrive on our shores. We may live outside the EU, but the continent’s regulatory zeal is coveted by many lawmakers across the G7it’s only a matter of time!

The EU projector lamp regulation follows a ban on all fluorescent lighting that went into effect Sept 2023 and that's just one part of the Union’s war on mercury (Hg - periodic table) a harmful heavy metal found in all of these light sources. It’s not just lighting facing bans, the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive has been steadily banning the manufacture and import of products containing mercury since 2005 and includes electronic switches, relays, batteries, thermometers, barometers and blood pressure monitors.

Stock Up for the Projector Lamp Ban

Destroy Projector Lamps 1924The EU law, entitled “2023/2049, amending 2017/852” goes into effect across every EU nation on day-one of 2026 when it will be illegal to import or manufacture lamp-based projectors and their replaceable bulbs. So, if you’re in the EU and were thinking of buying a projector, you now have the luxury of considering other options. But we have to feel bad for anyone in the EU whose return policy on a brand new lamp-based projector has just expired. If that's you, you’re probably considering stocking up on lamps to stave off your display’s obsolescence.

Fortunately, the EU lamp-ban won’t be enforced 1920s US Prohibition-style with police or FBI agents storming electronics shops to smash bulbs in the street. You have plenty of time to stock up! The regulation permits retailers to sell-off remaining stocks after the 2026 deadline. Depending on demand prices may vary wildly for new lamps in the final months of 2025. If you’re planning to stock up, consider checking the recommended shelf-life of the specific lamps used in your projector. Unverified anecdotes online have suggest projector bulbs stored in a cool and dry environment for almost ten years before using without incident. But be careful, a damaged lamp could pose a risk to the electronics inside your projector.

Lamp-Based Projector Market Worldwide

Europe may be an ocean away from North America, but its regulations surely offer a taste of things to come around the world and we've had our share of recent lighting bans. In an effort to fight climate change, the US Dept. of Energy effectively banned incandescent bulbs last year when it mandated household lighting provide 45-lumens of light per-watt. Although fluorescent lighting with mercury fits the energy efficiency requirements, mercury lighting bans have already arrived to this side of the Atlantic. Some US states and Canada are in the process of banning energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) because they contain Hg. It’s probably only a matter of time before our lawmakers see projector lamps in the same negative light as CFLs. Meanwhile the industry that makes projectors will almost surely lean into alternative projector technologies. According to the analysts at Fact.MR, the future looks bright for projector sales. Its 2023 market analysis predicts an 8% compound annual growth rate for projector lamps through 2031. Although the market research prediction does not differentiate between projector technologies it does indicate robust investment in expanding manufacturing capacity for LED, laser and conventional lamp-based projectors.

Regardless of where you live, if you’re considering a projector for your home theater display and you're wisely considering alternatives to lamp-based projectorsyou're in luck! Fortunately, there are two proven mercury-less projector technologies that emit light from LED and laser.

LED projectors can be found in nearly any budget and they’re highly price-competitive with lamp projectors. LED’s potential down side is that their maximum brightness may not reach the heights of a fresh lamp. But the LED provides maintenance-free operation with no need to regularly replace a lamp that can set you back a couple of hundred bucks or more, nor will you experience significant brightness decay at regular 1.5-2,000 hours of use. LED projector light can last up to 20,000-30,000 hours. But once your LED's long-lived brightness runs down, the display party is over for your projector. The LEDs in these projectors are not generally user-replaceable.

Laser projectors by brands like Sony and JVC have built an esteemed reputation for high-end quality. Although prices are naturally coming down, the most innovative models aren’t exactly cost-competitive with their lamp-based or LED brethren. But for the extra cost you’ll get the most important display technology benefits including truer colors, better contrast and you’ll stave-off brightness decay for longer than lamps and many LED projectors. Laser projectors are likely to supplant other projector technology as they inevitably become even more cost competitive in the future.

Lamp Projectors Mercury Vapor Paranoia 

If mercury (Hg) is hazardous, should I be concerned about my projector lamp? 

Before stoking paranoia in the next paragraph, the short answer in practice is no. But there are some simple safety and disposal procedures you should keep locked and loaded outlined below. 

Environmental regulations can be controversial, but limiting exposure to mercury is not. Hg is a heavy metal that’s toxic to humans even in relatively small doses. A typical projector bulb will contain between 5mg and up to 30mg of Hg stored as a vapor under high-pressure while operating at high-heat. That’s potentially well-over twice the Hg of compact fluorescent light (CFL). Unfortunately, the National Institutes of Health says that the most efficient way for the human body to absorb mercury is by breathing its vapors and poisoning has been confirmed with as little as 0.1mg/m3, by measure of linear density. 

According to NIH.gov: 

"Inhaled mercury vapor is readily absorbed, at a rate of approximately 80%, in the lungs, and quickly diffused into the blood and distributed into all of the organs of the body."

That means breathing the vapors is much more serious than the stories from your old grandad who talks about handling liquid mercury when he was a kid. Skin absorption is a far less efficient way to get Hg into your body, but it is accumulative so handling or breathing it regularly over time will almost certainly cause risks. The new EU law and other Hg regulations to follow are mainly concerned with getting mercury out of our environments. But there is a potential risk to using the substance in our hobby. Although rare, the glass envelope inside a projector lamp can burst while in operation. This may create a small explosive sound inside your projector lamp’s housing that could be as loud as a firecracker just as your projector goes dark. If you experience a lamp burst in your projector, resist the urge to rush over to your projector while hyperventilating. Since projector lamps store Hg in similar volume to CFL lighting, the same basic procedures should follow. The lamp’s burst will almost certainly push hot Hg vapor into your listening room. Since mercury is heavier than air, it will try to make its way down to your floor as it dissipates. But dissipate, it will. The first thing to do is get your audience out of the room for about 15-minutes. Open windows and fans will help clear the room of the vapor faster. 

Fortunately, your projector should already be positioned in a well-ventilated space and this will allow the small amount of mercury vapors to disperse quickly. Glass cleanup should only involve materials you’re ready to dispose of after use. The glass may be accompanied by a white powder phosphor from the inside the lamp that will have been marinating in Hg so, consider it toxic too. Use paper, cardboard and tape for cleanup then put these materials into a bag for disposal. It’s recommended you do not vacuum the area. Like CFL lights, old projector lamps should be considered hazardous waste when taking them to your local dump.

The above procedure are just some of the recommendations from the actively anti-mercury state of Maine and its Dept. of Environmental Protection. The overall possibility of mercury poisoning from either CFLs or projector lamp s is extremely low and would likely require consistent or multiple exposures, otherwise I would have been able to easily find lawsuits and anecdotes of poisonings online. But risk is not zero, so it’s good to have a standard procedure ready in case your projector lamp lets go of its Hg.

Dead Jim

Regulating Another Display Away

This isn’t the first environmental regulation to hit display technology and it won't likely be the last. Energy performance standards on televisions implemented in states like California and countries around the world have all but killed the market for plasma technology years ago. It appears the same thing is now happening to lamp projectors. Some states and the EU have already begun regulating compact fluorescent lights due to Hg, so we should expect projector lamps to eventually follow. So, for better or for worse, to paraphrase Dr. Bones McCoy

"The lamp projector is dead, Jim!"


About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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