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article imageCompact Fluorescent Bulbs are Hazardous Waste

By atroxodisse     Dec 12, 2007 in Health
Everyday you're inundated with CF bulb advertisements, telling you to save the environment and save money. What aren't they telling you? Have you really noticed a difference in your electricity bill?
If you listen to the power companies commercials you would think that Compact Fluorescent bulbs are the perfect solution.
What they fail to mention in those commercials and on the bulb packaging is that these bulbs are hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of with your regular garbage. They must be taken to a hazardous waste management facility.
Thankfully companies like Ikea and Home Depot Canada will take them and recycle them for you. There is a desire for these bulbs to start coming with plastic bags that you can place the bulb in and send through the mail to be recycled.
By now you’ve probably read that CF bulbs contain mercury which is a hazardous substance. On average each bulb contains 1/100th the mercury of a mercury thermometer, about 5mg. Newer bulbs contain less mercury. The amount of mercury contained in fish varies greatly but 5mg of mercury is an order of magnitude greater than you’ll find in fish. US doctors claim that mercury accumulates in your body and can lead to mercury poisoning and fertility problems.
According to the EPA’s website
this is the procedure for cleaning up a broken CF bulb:Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:
1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
3. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
• Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
Note: Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
• Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
4. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
• First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces 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 two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.
Thankfully the introduction of LED bulbs means we can save money on electricity and not have to deal with hazardous mercury spills. LED bulbs are still expensive though. Hopefully the prices will come down soon.
More about Compact fluorescent, Hazardous waste, Clean
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