I Broke a CFL. Now What?

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

Like all 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? Do you have to dig out the gasoline masks and Hazmat go well with?

Earth911 sat down with John Rogers, a senior vitality analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists who focuses on 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 a number of information protection about mercury in CFLs, so an preliminary freak-out second after breaking a bulb is comprehensible. However clear vitality skilled John Rogers helped ease our minds. “It is a manageable drawback,” he assured us. “More often than not they don’t break. In the event that they do break, there are procedures we observe.”

Any degree of mercury publicity carries potential well being issues, however as a result of small quantity of mercury and brief length of publicity, a damaged CFL isn’t more likely to current a big danger to you or your loved ones, Rogers informed Earth911.

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

“You’re speaking beneath 5 milligrams of mercury,” he stated. “That determine received’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 type of thermometers.”

Make observe 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 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, you probably have one.
  • Accumulate 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 isn’t really useful until damaged glass stays in any case different cleanup steps have been taken, as doing so could unfold mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Completely 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 could 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 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 essential publicity interval passes after 4 hours).

The Significance of CFL Recycling

On account of mercury content material, it’s essential 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 really 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 most effective 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 simple factor we are able to do to maintain the mercury right down to, basically, zero.”

When it’s time to exchange your previous CFLs, enhance your vitality financial savings and scale back your environmental affect by selecting energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Initially revealed 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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