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Mercury inside CFL light bulbs ! I did not know this!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

These researchers cite data from a study that released 1 mg of mercury into a 500 meter3 room to simulate a CFL break. Without ventilation, air concentrations reached 2 micrograms per m3 — or 10 times the federally recommended safe upper exposure limit for children.

So imagine now that you’re carefully carrying a handful of bulbs to install in lamps around the home and pooch gets underfoot. As you trip, those CFLs all go crashing onto a hard floor. What now?

I’ve read a lot of websites by municipal governments and even the Environmental Protection Agency. And when asked what to do about broken CFLs, most punt and simply tell consumers that the modern ones release too little mercury to pose a risk. Interestingly, they don’t even touch the issue of breakage in bigger fluorescent lights, such as the long tubes used over work benches or those ugly circular tubes needed to light some old-fashioned kitchen-ceiling fixtures. These fluorescents contain substantially more mercury than a palm-sized CFL.

More cautious websites, like EPA’s, recommend airing a mercury-tainted room for 15 minutes after a CFL breaks. Instruct family members or pets to exit the room without passing near the broken bulb. Later, scoop up visible debris with a piece of cardboard and then swab the affected area with a wet paper towel. What should you do with the debris and wet towels? EPA tells us to seal them in a plastic bag.

Actually, ditch that suggestion.

Plastic doesn’t work, Hurt told me this afternoon. Another lab found evidence that plastic wouldn’t securely trap mercury, “and we tried to confirm those results. Sure enough,” he found, “if you put a broken bulb in a plastic bag, the mercury goes right through it. It surprised me, but it’s true.” So if you bag a broken CFL and toss it in the kitchen trash can, every time you lift its lid “you’ll get a face full [of mercury].”

Hurt prefers EPA’s alternative option: Put broken CFLs in a sealed glass jar.

Where a bulb has broken on a hard surface, like a linoleum floor, EPA instructs us not to use a broom (which will become contaminated) or vacuum (which will not only become contaminated but also forcefully spew mercury vapor into the air and, potentially, other rooms).

If bulb debris ends up on carpeting, we’re to use sticky tape (like duct tape) to pick up any tiny pieces or powderlike residue. If the area must be vacuumed, EPA says to immediately empty its now-contaminated bag and pitch that into a sealed plastic bag (oops, glass jar), and immediately walk it out to the trash. (This conveniently ducks the issue of what to do with the increasingly common bagless vacuums.)

Don’t wash mercury-contaminated clothing or fabric, EPA instructs: Just pitch them out. And never dispose of CFL wastes in an incinerator chute; burning them will only release their mercury into the air.

If your bulb dies but isn’t broken, most municipalities require keeping it out of the general trash. Instead, dispose of it as hazardous waste.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
2HAMSDIET 11/22/2013 3:38AM

    emoticon emoticon

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LAURANCE 11/21/2013 8:30PM

  Home Depot around here receives and disposes burned out bulbs.

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ARTJAC 11/21/2013 3:17AM


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DS9KIE 11/21/2013 12:45AM


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FRAN0426 11/20/2013 9:14PM

    Thanks for sharing the info with us. I hadn't known about this but is good info. Enjoyed reading the blog.

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FROSTY99 11/20/2013 8:17PM

    Scary stuff!!

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DIETER27 11/20/2013 2:33PM

  Thanks for the information it is appreciated.

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ADRIENALINE 11/20/2013 2:09PM

    What a great informative blog. I went to read this blog expecting some conspiracy theory or unifomred gobbledygook and found instead great info backed by science and data. Thanks my dear. I just befriended you. Hope you'll do likewise.

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CAROLIAN 11/20/2013 1:46PM

    Thanks Chris emoticon

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NAYPOOIE 11/20/2013 11:54AM

    Yeah, I like saving energy, but the damn things are just not a good idea.

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LOSER05 11/20/2013 11:29AM


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NEWSPARKDEBBIE 11/20/2013 10:09AM

    Are they planning on getting rid of the standard light bulbs? They are very attainable in our area and I already knew about the mercury and refused to switch to them. But will we have another alternative when and IF they do?!

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SANDRALEET 11/20/2013 8:18AM

    Be careful with all wast Do not flush old medication down toilet

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NANCYPAT1 11/20/2013 5:05AM

    Thanks for sharing this.

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DJ4HEALTH 11/20/2013 12:54AM

    It is funny that they outlawed the incandescent bulbs but not the CFL and they are more toxic than than any bulbs out there.. The other one just used more energy.. Maybe we need to tell them to put them all in their homes and not use any other kind. Makes you wonder how much they were paid off to pass that silly law.

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MERRYMARY42 11/19/2013 10:57PM

    thanks very eye opening and interesting

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SHARON10002 11/19/2013 10:39PM

    Thanks once again to the government!

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BERRY4 11/19/2013 10:11PM

    Here's one site w/ info.

My dh works w/ LED lights and hope that we move more in that direction.

We are fortunate that our utility exchanges used or burned out bulbs of any kind for replacements (without cost!).

I always make a point of handling any bulb with caution. -- I would NEVER carry a "handful" of bulbs for any reason. Just saying...

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AIDEN487 11/19/2013 9:54PM

  Yep now u tube speech in congress where if rep drops bulb they have to evacuate Capitol when they were voting on this .ur govt @ work

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COCK-ROBIN 11/19/2013 9:46PM

    Wow, I'm never using CFL bulbs.

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BULLRN58 11/19/2013 9:40PM

    give me the traditional incandescent any day. glad i bought a few cases last year

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STUDLEEJOE 11/19/2013 9:40PM

    Thanks for the information,

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