CFL (Compact Florescent Bulb) Dangers & Proper Disposal

CFL Bulb  Most us us by now are "going green", saving money, and cutting energy costs by using CFLs (Compact Florescent Bulbs) in our homes and businesses.  But, few of us know about the dangers of these mercury-filled bulbs. 

Recently, as reported by Lt. James L. Jester of the Salisbury Fire Department in Maryland, a man required emergency treatment 2 weeks' hospitalization, and narrowly escaped amputation after cutting his foot on a broken CFL bulb.  The man had tried to remove the burned-out bulb from an overhead fixture while it was still hot.  Naturally, he dropped the hot bulb and it shattered upon hitting the floor, releasing it's MERCURY contents. 

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury (appx 5 milligrams) within the glass tubing, and no mercury is released when the bulbs are in use.  They pose no danger when used properly.   So, how do we properly use and dispose of these bulbs?  The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and US Department of Energy recommend the following:

  • Be careful when removing the lamp from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it.
  • Allow a burned-out bulb to cool before removing it.
  • Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its base, and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket by its tubes.
  • Do not throw CFLs away in your household garbage.  Check with your local waste management agency for recycling options in your community. 
  • Sweep up—don’t vacuum—all of the glass fragments and fine particles.
  • Place broken pieces in a sealed plastic bag and wipe the area with a damp paper
  • towel to pick up any stray shards of glass or fine particles. Put the used towel in the
  • plastic bag as well.
  • If weather permits, open windows to allow the room to ventilate.

EPA offers additional information and resources on all sources of mercury at EPA offers additional information and resources on all sources of mercury at www.epa.gov/mercury.

Take care and Stay Safe!

Britt