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Publications

Could "going green" make you sick?

Bookmark and Share They save you money on your electric bill and they last longer than traditional light bulbs, but could the mercury in compact florescent lights (CFLs) be a health hazard? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the mercury sealed inside the low-energy bulbs is not released when the bulbs are in use, but you should be cautious if one gets broken.

How to clean up a broken compact florescent light bulb (CFL)
Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines.

Before Clean-up: Ventilate 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.

Clean-Up
  • Carefully pick up glass fragments or scoop up fragments and powder using cardboard
  • Place fragments in a glass jar with metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining fragments and powder
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag. Avoid using a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb
  • If a bulb breaks on the carpet and vacuuming is needed, remove all visible materials first then 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

Clothing and Bedding
If clothing or bedding comes in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb, it should be discarded. You can, however, wash fabric that was exposed to the mercury vapor, such as the clothing you were wearing when you cleaned up the broken bulb, as long as that clothing did not come into direct contact with the broken materials.

Disposal
Immediately place all cleanup materials - which should be sealed inside a jar or plastic bag - outdoors in a protected area for drop off at a recycling center. Wash your hands after disposal. Used and broken CFLs can be recycled at all Home Depot stores or check with your local retailer. You can also visit www.njhazwaste.com/ to find a recycling site near you.

Future Cleaning of Carpet or Rug
The next several times that you vacuum, shut off the central heating/air conditioning system and open windows prior to vacuuming. Keep the central heating/air conditioning off and the windows open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

For more information, visit www.energystar.gov/cfls.