Friday, January 30, 2009

What to Do if a CFL Should Break

Compact fluorescents (CFLs) have been a godsend for the lodging industry. They last longer than incandescents, use a small portion of the energy, and dramatically reduce costs. Unlike incandescents, however, they contain a small amount of mercury and should be safely disposed of at the end of their life. You shouldn't just throw them in the trash. Numerous companies sell prepaid mailers (boxes) to safely dispose of CFLs and larger fluorescents. Be sure to use them. As careful as one can be about safely disposing of fluorescents, accidents do happen. If a CFL (or other type of fluorescent) should break, here is what you need to remember to safely handle the waste (thanks to the EPA):

Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. Enclose that bag in another plastic bag. Wash your hands after cleaning the breakage area. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag and place it in two sealed plastic bags for safe disposal.

If you need the name of a reputable company that offers prepaid disposal packaging, contact me at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A CFL bulb broke in my hands a few days ago and shattered all over my kitchen floor. I didn't know they were filled with Mercury at the time and didn't take all the special precautions outlined above. Now what do I do?! Have I been exposed to harmeful levels of Mercury??