Broken Bulbs: Avoiding Mercury Exposure

            I am a strong advocate of using compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs given their high energy efficiency, and therefore reduced impact on the environment.  If you don’t know them by their name, CFL bulbs are simply the twisted light bulbs you see everywhere these days.  As great as they are, however, CFLs do contain mercury vapor and are therefore important to dispose of properly if broken.  In the event that you break one of these bulbs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following: First, open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes.  This will allow for proper ventilation.  Also, make sure to shut off your central heating/air conditioning systems if you have one. Upon reentering the room you’re then instructed to use stiff cardboard or paper to scoop up the large glass fragments.  Make sure to not use a broom or vacuum to clean the debris as this will contaminate them.  Sticky tape is then recommended to remove small glass fragments or visible powder.  Finally, a wet cloth or paper towel should be used to wipe the area clean.  
            Note, all of the contents (broken glass, cardboard, wet cloth, etc.) are to be sealed in a glass jar or plastic bag following each step of the cleanup process.  If you must use a vacuum at any point, as might be the case for cleaning carpet, be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag in the same manner used for the other contents.  The sealed bags/jars containing the contents are then to be placed in an outside garbage can for the next local trash pickup.  Note that some states do not permit such trash disposal, instead requiring that the toxic waste be taken to a separate waste or recycling center. Simply check with your local or state government about disposal requirements for info on this.  Following the cleanup of the broken light bulb, be sure to wash your hands.  The detailed procedures that have been written to aid in broken CFL cleanup underscore the importance of avoiding mercury exposure and, in turn, the importance of this blog! 

If you enjoyed this article and have a Yahoo, Google, or Twitter account, please join my blog!  Here you can leave comments and feedback.  Simply click the “join this site” button to the right, log in using your account info, and click “follow publicly.”  Thanks!!

                                                                                                -Shahir Masri