Broken CFL Bulbs Pose Health Risks

So you were going the “environmentally responsible route” and bought Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) to replace incandescent bulbs in your home?  Despite the annoying few second delay whenever you turn on a CFL lightbulb, you have been feeling pretty excellent about your choice.

Mercury Poisoning

Toxic Mercury

Here’s the thing.  We really hate to burst your bubble, but did you know that CFLs contain mercury?

Mercury is a poisonous substance that can cause major health concerns.  Even in trace amounts, it can be problematic.

Mercury Poisoning

Mercury Poisoning

If you are of a certain age, maybe you can remember the panic that ensued if your mom accidentally broke the mercury thermometer, and then the scramble to carefully collect all of the little silver blobs that rolled around the table onto the floor?

Broken CFL Bulb

Broken CFL Bulb

Fast forward to today… perhaps now YOU are that parent concerned about protecting your children from toxic poisons.  What should you do if you accidentally break a CFL lightbulb?

Don’t worry! Important precautions that you should take in order to safely dispose of broken CFLs are available.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) provides the following key steps to safely cleaning up a broken CFL:


  • Remove all people and pets from the room where the bulb broke
  • Ventilate the room by opening a window for a few minutes
  • Shut off central air conditioning or heating, for several hours if possible
  • Avoid vacuuming in a mercury-contaminated area
  • Pick up fragments with cardboard rather than a vacuum cleaner
  • Pick up remnants with tape
  • Seal all debris inside a glass jar (since plastic bags will not prevent mercury vapor from escaping)
  • Store sealed glass jar outside the home
  • Open windows and turn off central climate control the next few times you vacuum the room
  • Check with local waste disposal authorities about how to dispose of all CFLs, whether broken or not

For a handy guide on how to properly dispose of broken CFLs, click on this link, print it out and keep it in a handy place for future reference… and then consider switching to LEDs, which are currently the most promising health hazard-free alternative to CFLs!

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