Several years ago I spent many hours researching and writing about energy efficient light bulbs. Back in 2007, President George W. Bush signed a law that phased out traditional incandescent bulbs because they used up too much energy.
This was all part of the push to combat “climate change” a.k.a. “global warming,” caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) gas released when fossil fuels are burned for electricity.
But by phasing out the good old standby incandescent lightbulbs, we were hit with the Law of Unintended Consequences.
The first new technology that was meant to replace the inefficient old lightbulbs was compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs. These curlicue bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a known toxin.
After certain incidents in which CFL bulbs broke (and who could have seen that coming?) the EPA was forced to address the issue of hazardous mercury released into the home.
Here’s the EPA advice on cleaning up broken CFLs that contain toxic mercury:
Have people and pets leave the room.
Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
- stiff paper or cardboard;
- sticky tape;
- damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
- a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.
Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.
Visit the EPA’s CFL recycling page to find nearby locations that will accept used bulbs.
If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
And these are just the quick cleanup instructions.
More detailed instructions can be found on the EPA website https://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl
Next: Toxic Light Bulbs – Part II
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Copyright (c) 2018 Holly B. Martin