Compact Fluorescent Lights

How dangerous is it if I break a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light)?

compact fluorescent light

Are Compact Fluorescent Lights dangerous?

Absolutely, positively, (almost and maybe) not a good thing!

Do you need to put on a Hazmat suit to handle these (broken) babies? Not quite.

Here are some tips:

  • Clean it up right away (Read below first!)
  • Open the window (at least 15 min.)
  • Have everyone leave the room (don’t forget about your pets)
  • If you have central heat or A/C, turn it off till you vent out the room
  • Avoid skin contact; I would suggest something like (latex or similar) gloves
  • Safety glasses, coveralls or old clothing and a dust mask are recommended
  • If you cut yourself, contact your doctor on what you should do
  • Clean the debris area thoroughly and DON’T use your vacuum cleaner to clean it up!
  • Use duct tape (or similar) to pick-up the small pieces and then damp or wet wipes
  • Wash your hands when you’re done cleaning it up
  • Don’t keep the broken debris in the house (a Zip lock bag would probably be a good idea)
  • The next couple of times you vacuum the area, turn off your central heat or A/C
  • Broken or not, dispose of these at a proper recycling facility
  • Next time you change a bulb, put down a drop cloth or similar to catch any broken debris. And, don’t touch it if it’s hot. Other than the obvious, these bulbs seems to be extra fragile when warm. I tried to take one out once and it just snapped in half.

So, what should you do? Light your house with candles or lanterns? (Burn down house = NOT good!)

Here’s some technical mumbo jumbo:

  • At ambient temperature (20°C), mercury possesses a saturation concentration of 1.6 ppm which is 160 times the occupational exposure limit. However, the concentration at which your health is immediately threatened is rarely reached.
  • The mercury would not instantly disperse uniformly throughout the room. So while you’d probably get 0 exposure at any distance from it, cleaning it up might impose a higher risk.
  • All the mercury in a CFL is vapor so there is no liquid mercury to hang around once the air has circulated.

As a final note: CFLs save consumers money. In the long run, these bulbs draw far less power (resulting in lower electric bills) and they last longer (so they don’t need to be replaced as often). They also work to save the environment by reducing greenhouse gases. If every American home replaced just one standard incandescent light bulb with a long-lasting CFL, the resultant energy savings would eliminate greenhouse gases equal to the emissions of 800,000 cars, according to the U.S. Energy Star program.

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