I Broke a CFL. Now What?

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 include a small amount of mercury (about 4 milligrams per bulb on common).

Like every glass product, CFLs have a tendency to interrupt often, inflicting many householders to fret about potential mercury exposure and adverse health effects. So, simply how harmful is a damaged CFL? Do you have to dig out the fuel masks and Hazmat swimsuit?

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

Oops … I Broke a CFL!

When CFLs first got here out, there was plenty of information protection about mercury in CFLs, so an preliminary freak-out second after breaking a bulb is comprehensible. However clear vitality knowledgeable John Rogers helped ease our minds. “This can be a manageable downside,” he assured us. “More often than not they don’t break. In the event that they do break, there are procedures we observe.”

Any stage of mercury publicity carries potential well being considerations, however because of the small quantity of mercury and quick length of publicity, a damaged CFL will not be prone to current a major threat to you or your loved ones, Rogers advised Earth911.

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

“You’re speaking beneath 5 milligrams of mercury,” he stated. “That determine gained’t imply a lot to individuals, so to place it in perspective: if you consider the mercury thermometers that I grew up with, it’s lower than 1% of the quantity of mercury that was in a kind of thermometers.”

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

1. Earlier than Cleanup

  • Have individuals and pets go away 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’ve got one.
  • Acquire 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, equivalent to a glass jar with a steel lid or a resealable plastic bag.

2. Throughout Cleanup

  • Don’t vacuum. Vacuuming will not be beneficial until damaged glass stays in any case different cleanup steps have been taken, as doing so could unfold mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Totally scoop up glass fragments and powder utilizing stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, equivalent to 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 info, 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 luggage used, outside in a trash container or protected space till supplies might be disposed of. Keep away from 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 along with your common rubbish.
  • If climate and different situations permit, proceed to air out the room the place the bulb was damaged and go away the heating and air con system shut off for a number of hours (a study carried out by the journal Science of The Total Environment discovered that the essential publicity interval passes after 4 hours).

The Significance of CFL Recycling

As a result of mercury content material, it’s crucial to dispose of CFLs properly. Whether or not 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. Fortunately, CFL recycling is available in most communities by 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 perfect resolution is that we use [CFLs] till the tip of their life after which eliminate them in methods to seize that mercury,” John Rogers stated. “A 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 exchange your outdated CFLs, enhance your vitality financial savings and cut back your environmental impression by selecting energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Initially 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.


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