You’ve broken a fluorescent lightbulb. Now what?
Use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs can save money, conserve energy, reduce waste and lower greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, CFLs contain mercury – a potent neurotoxin that, in small amounts, can cause serious health problems. At room temperature, mercury is a liquid and can readily evaporate into the air.
Chronic low-dose exposure can permanently damage the nervous system and ongoing exposure can cause tremors, anxiety and memory loss, CDPH says.
So, what should you do to minimize your exposure if a CFL breaks? EPA recommends following these steps:
- Air out the room for five to 10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
- Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system.
- Collect materials needed to clean up the 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.
- Don’t vacuum. Doing so could spread mercury‐containing powder or mercury vapor.
- Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
- Place materials in a sealable container.
- Place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area.
- If allowed to do so (check with your local government), dispose of the materials with your trash.
- Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours, if possible.