avatar

Handling broken energy-efficient bulbs

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged:

Published on February 22, 2011 with No Comments

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and other mercury-containing lamps are being used in more homes and businesses than ever before. Use of these products benefits consumers through reduced energy consumption and lower utility bills. And they benefit the environment by reducing electricity demand at fossil-fuel burning power plants.

However, fluorescent lamps do contain a small amount of mercury – CFLs average less than 4 milligrams of mercury – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs.

Because these lamps do contain mercury, they should be handled with care. Precautions should be taken to properly handle broken fluorescent lamps.

Guidance on proper methods of handling broken fluorescent lamps is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and from many state agencies and local health and environmental authorities.

For those concerned about the potential risks from mercury vapor in broken CFLs, an August 2009 article written by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs states that the risk is “negligible”, posing as much risk as one bite of a tuna sandwich if one takes the common-sense steps to ventilate the area where the lamp is broken and to clean up and remove visible debris to an outdoor area.

Manufacturers encourage consumers to use and recycle mercury-containing lamps safely. Carefully recycling CFLs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials.

The EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs to ensure that the Agency presents the most recent and relevant information for consumers and businesses.

EPA clean-up and disposal recommendations:

Before clean-up: Air out the room

• Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.

• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-up steps for hard surfaces

• Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up steps for carpeting or rug

• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.

• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up steps for clothing, bedding and other soft materials

• If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.

• You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.

• If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of clean-up materials

• Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.

• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future cleaning of carpeting or rug: Air out the room during and after vacuuming

• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.

• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

For more information, visit www.lamprecycle.org, or visit www.energystar.gov.

Be Sociable, Share!

Share This Article

About ryan

avatar

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

Comments for Handling broken energy-efficient bulbs are now closed.