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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and the hazards to come.

Compact Fluorescent Lights are the darlings of the energy and wanna be green set. They also present dangers beyond the few pennies you save. The bulb makers and the greenmailers are telling you to replace every bulb in your house with these ‘marvels’, so you won’t be one of those profligate energy hogs, or worse.

Kids toys have more warning labels than CFL’s do. If you are going to use them, think about a couple of common sense guidelines.

Do not use them in table or floor lamps where the possibility of overactive kids or pets have a chance of knocking them down.

My preference is that you don’t use them in any fixture that is less than 6′ above the floor.

When they do burn out take them back to the store where you got them, or dispose of them properly. They are hazardous material.

They do represent energy savings, at least according to the literature, and may save you a few cents now, but down the road the butchers bill is gonna be big. The mercury issue is gonna haunt your children and theirs.

The average CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury. 5 milligrams of anything will just about cover the ball of a ball point pen. Not very much you think. But it is cumulative, highly toxic and disposal is going to be a problem. Probably not by you readers, but consider the millions of folks who are not connected, and the Big Box Stores who are moving millions of these bulbs without any signage at all about proper disposal. Trust me, there are millions of folks who do not recycle, live in communities that recycle, or could care less.

Here are the EPA Clean Up guidelines:

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and
disposal guidelines:
1. Before Clean-up:
Ventilate the Room Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them
in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and
powder.
Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the
glass jar or plastic bag.
Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:
Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a
canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and
powder.
If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the
bulb was broken.
Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris
in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:
If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing
powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be
discarded. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing
may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.

You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury
vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you happened to be wearing when you
cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the
materials from the broken bulb.

If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the
bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or
wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials
Immediately place all cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the
next normal trash pickup.

Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area.
Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-
containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug:

Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning
system and open a window prior to vacuuming.

Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15
minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Here are the EPA Guides.

Information on Proper Disposal of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
PDF

Clean Up Guidelines PDF