Take Safety Home: Are CFLs Safe for Your Home?

Most of us have at least a few CFL, or compact fluorescent bulbs, in our homes. CFLs are considered to be an environmental and efficient choice for our homes. They use about 75% less energy than a standard bulb, and they last about ten times as long. But, are CFLs safe to be used in your home?

For the most part, CFL use is safe and is not harmful to use in your home on a daily basis. And CFL’s are great for the environment when they are handled properly and disposed of properly. However, the bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, which is a toxic metal which can build up in our bodies and persists in the environment.

The mercury in the bulbs only escapes when they break. Do not drop or handle the bulb roughly. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the light bulb by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket.

When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA and NFPA recommend the following cleanup and disposal steps:

Before Clean-up

Open a window and turn off forced-air heating or air conditioning. Everyone should leave the room, including pets.

Clean-up

Scoop up the glass fragments and powder rather than sweeping or vacuuming, which can spread the mercury around. Use tape to pick up remaining glass fragments or powder. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or wet wipes.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

Dispose of the broken bulb through your local household hazardous waste program or recycling program. Where such programs are not available, place all cleanup materials outside the house in a trash container area for the next normal trash pickup, then wash your hands.

Continue to air out the room for several hours where the bulb was broken and leave the heating or air conditioning system off.

When a CFL burns out and is still intact, it should be disposed of properly through your local household hazardous waste program or recycling program. Visit epa.gov/cfl/cflrecycling or earth911.orgto find local recycling options.

 

This information is provided as a service to you by Compliance Consultants, Inc.