I Broke a CFL. Now What?

I Broke a CFL. Now What?

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Compact fluorescent mild bulbs (CFLs) use 75% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs and final about six instances longer, but it surely’s no secret that CFLs comprise a small amount of mercury (about 4 milligrams per bulb on common).

Like any glass product, CFLs have a tendency to interrupt sometimes, inflicting many householders to fret about potential mercury exposure and adverse health effects. So, simply how harmful is a damaged CFL? Should you dig out the gasoline masks and Hazmat go well with?

Earth911 sat down with John Rogers, a senior power analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists who makes a speciality of clear power, to unravel these urgent questions on CFL security, cleanup, and disposal.

Oops … I Broke a CFL!

When CFLs first got here out, there was a number of information protection about mercury in CFLs, so an preliminary freak-out second after breaking a bulb is comprehensible. But clear power knowledgeable John Rogers helped ease our minds. “This is a manageable downside,” he assured us. “Most of the time they don’t break. If they do break, there are procedures we comply with.”

Any stage of mercury publicity carries potential well being issues, however as a result of small quantity of mercury and brief period of publicity, a damaged CFL is just not more likely to current a big danger to you or your loved ones, Rogers advised Earth911.

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CFLs save a great deal of power when in comparison with incandescent mild bulbs, however they comprise small quantities of mercury. Photo courtesy of Emilian Robert Vicol

“You’re speaking underneath 5 milligrams of mercury,” he mentioned. “That determine received’t imply a lot to individuals, so to place it in perspective: if you concentrate on the mercury thermometers that I grew up with, it’s lower than 1% of the quantity of mercury that was in a type of thermometers.”

Make be aware of the next cleanup steps in case you ever break a CFL bulb. Find the EPA’s detailed instructions here.

1. Before Cleanup

  • Have individuals and pets depart the room.
  • Air out the room for 5 to 10 minutes by opening a window or door.
  • Shut off the forced-air heating and cooling system, when you have one.
  • Collect the next supplies to wash up the damaged bulb: Stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels or disposable moist wipes (for onerous surfaces), and an hermetic container, reminiscent of a glass jar with a metallic lid or a resealable plastic bag.

2. During Cleanup

  • Do not vacuum. Vacuuming is just not really useful until damaged glass stays in any case different cleanup steps have been taken, as doing so might unfold mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Thoroughly scoop up glass fragments and powder utilizing stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, reminiscent of duct tape, to select up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Place the used tape within the glass jar or plastic bag. See detailed cleanup instructions from the EPA for extra data, and for variations in cleansing up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
  • Place cleanup supplies in a sealable container.

3. After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb particles and cleanup supplies, together with any vacuum cleaner baggage used, outdoor in a trash container or protected space till supplies will be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup supplies indoors.
  • Use Earth911 to trace down a recycling resolution close to you. CFLs are household hazardous waste and shouldn’t be disposed of together with your common rubbish.
  • If climate and different situations enable, proceed to air out the room the place the bulb was damaged and depart the heating and air-con system shut off for a number of hours (a study performed by the journal Science of The Total Environment discovered that the crucial publicity interval passes after 4 hours).

The Importance of CFL Recycling

Due to mercury content material, it’s crucial to dispose of CFLs properly. Whether they’re damaged or not, they’re hazardous waste and shouldn’t go in your common waste bin. Some states truly ban the disposal of CFLs and different mercury-containing mild bulbs in landfills. Luckily, CFL recycling is available in most communities via retailer take-back applications and native family hazardous waste (HHW) assortment.

Use Earth911 Recycling Search to discover a recycling resolution in your ZIP code, and use warning when eradicating and recycling a burnt-out CFL.

The finest resolution is that we use [CFLs] till the tip of their life after which get rid of them in methods to seize that mercury,” John Rogers mentioned. “Part of what we have to do is educate individuals higher in regards to the significance of recycling. That’s a straightforward factor we will do to maintain the mercury all the way down to, basically, zero.”

When it’s time to switch your previous CFLs, enhance your power financial savings and cut back your environmental influence by selecting energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Originally printed on January 11, 2013, this text was up to date in January 2023.

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I had no idea CFLs contained mercury. So glad I looked up how to recycle CFLs before just tossing one into the trash. This article gives great step by step directions on how to clean up a broken CFL.