Breaking a Fluorescent Bulb can be dangerous

CFL bulbs contain mercury. If you break one, don’t use a vacuum to clean up.

A vacuum cleaner will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as contaminating the vacuum.

Link: Fluorescent bulb information, Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

What if I accidentally break a fluorescent bulb in my home?

fluorescent bulbs

The most important thing to remember is to never use a vacuum . A standard vacuum will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as potentially contaminating the vacuum. What you should do is:

  • Keep people and pets away from the breakage area so that the mercury in the powder inside the bulb is not accidentally tracked into other areas.
  • Ventilate the area by opening windows.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, safety glasses, old clothing or coveralls, and a dust mask (if you have one) to keep bulb dust and glass from being inhaled.
  • Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top and gasket seal like a canning jar.
  • Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use a disposable broom and dustpan or two stiff pieces of paper to scoop up pieces.
  • Put all material into the glass container. Pat the area with the sticky side of duct, packing or masking tape. Wipe the area with a damp cloth or paper towels to pick up fine particles.
  • Put all waste and materials used to clean up the bulb in the glass container and label it “Universal Waste – broken lamp”.
  • Take the container for recycling as universal waste.

The next time you replace a bulb, consider putting a drop cloth on the floor so that any accidental breakage can be easily cleaned up.

More information

History and facts on CFL breakage (pdf format)

Coal is NOT the Solution

Steve Heckeroth at Mother Earth News describes why coal is not a good source of energy. Excerpts below.

Link: Solar is the Solution.

Coal is burned mainly to produce electricity, and coal-fired power plants produce more than half the electricity used in the United States. But burning coal has serious drawbacks. One is that it releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. It also releases heavy metals, such as mercury and sulfur. These toxins that were locked in the Earth’s crust over billions of years are suddenly spewed into the atmosphere and thus degrade our air, water and soil. The exhaust from burning coal contains more pollutants and global warming emissions per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel. In addition, the methods used to mine coal are destructive to the land and dangerous for the miners.

Now consider that coal is enormously inefficient from a total energy perspective. It took billions of years of solar energy to form the coal we have today. And while coal is the most abundant fossil resource, the total amount of energy produced by burning all the coal on the planet would only be equivalent to the solar energy that strikes the Earth every six days.