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Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and Mercury

I recently blogged on the praises of CFL’s (compact fluorescent bulbs). Today, I’m addressing the topic of mercury gas in the bulb. Yes, they do contain a small amount of mercury gas, and I have included a chart here to show some of the other household uses of mercury.

I was reading the Maui News a week or so ago, and a reader sent a letter about the evils of broken fluorescent bulbs. That got me thinking about what to do if one breaks or just gives out…so I did a little research. Home Depot will recycle any “expired” compact fluorescent bulb. However, they will not recycle bulbs that are broken.

So what are you to do with a bulb that is broken? No one seemed to know, so I called the County of Maui Environmental Department. After being transferred a few times, I was put in touch with a gentleman who told me to just put it in the trash since there was no program for recycling that he was aware of. Hmm…I mentioned that I was concerned about the mercury gas in the tubes. He said that the levels were so low that it wasn’t a problem. I suppose that sometimes, by becoming more environmentally conscious in one area, we become less so in others.

Thankfully, I then came across some additional information from who else, Heloise (Hints from Heloise). She says to follow these cleanup and disposal guidelines in the event of a broken fluorescent bulb:

  1. Open a window for ventilation for at least 15 minutes before starting cleanup.
  2. Do not handle the pieces with bare hands; wear protective disposable gloves.
  3. Place the pieces in a plastic bag placed in another plastic bag, and use duct tape to pick up the tiny fragments.
  4. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels, and place the towels in the bag, too.
  5. If the area where the bulb broke is carpeted, you can vacuum the carpet, but you must immediately remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the vacuum bag in with the other bulb trash. Do not vacuum hard floor surfaces.
  6. Check with your trash company or call your recycling center for specific disposal directions. As a general rule, fluorescent bulbs can be put in the trash for pickup or taken to the dump if your state and local regulations allow (we now know that Maui allows it).

I was just listening to a program on Hawaii Public Radio (98.3 FM) where this was the topic. The general consensus was that if a fluorescent bulb breaks, clear the room out immediately. Then pack the broken glass in a double plastic bag and put it in the trash.

Well, if that’s good enough for Heloise, it’s good enough for Ken. If you think that a broken fluorescent bulb clean up is a pain, wait to see what you or your painting contractor will have to do when you make repairs on a home that was built prior to 1978. Stay tuned.

Search for energy efficient homes in my Energy Efficient Home Gallery.

Listen to Hawaii Public Radio online at 5PM Hawaii Time on Mondays to hear an awesome program called Energy Futures. All things about energy efficiency is discussed.

Peace – Out

theenergymi$ser

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