Recently ABC, WSYX news did a story on the safety of CFL bulbs. Of course, CFL bulbs are the Compact fluorescent light. These are those strange looking energy efficient lights that we all have been told to use instead of the traditional incandescent bulbs. They are suppose to save us on money since they last longer and they are suppose to only take about one quarter of the amount of electrical energy used compared to those traditional incandescent bulbs.
According to the story on WSYX there have been many stories posted via the internet that stated that these bulbs were dangerous if they were ever to break. It seems that the contain mercury.
The story advised viewers that the mercury levels in these bulbs were not at a dangerous level, even if they were to break. The story also stated that breakage was unlikely to occur according to the EPA, which WSYX contacted. The EPA also stated that the mercury vapors were not likely to come infused even if a bulb were to break because of a shut off valve that is in place in all bases of CFL’s.
As for the amount of mercury within a CFL it is very small. In fact, according to the news story it would take 100 CFL’s to equal the amount of mercury that was found in the common thermometers that people used to have in their homes years ago.
According to an article found on the internet, the amount of mercury found in the average CFL is about 5 milligrams which would be about what could sit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. This in fact 5 times the amount of mercury that is found in the average watch battery and 60 to 200 times the amount found in a normal silver dental filling.
For these reasons, it sounds like CFL’s are safe to use and they have been proven to save money. Yet, what should one do if one should break?
According to the EPA you should:
• Stay calm.
• Shut off any air conditioners and heating sources
• Open a window
• Carefully scoop up any broken glass
• Do not use a vacuum cleaner to do this
• If the glass is in small pieces, try using a piece of tape to pick up the smallest of pieces to avoid getting cut
• Wipe the area with clean, moist paper towels
• Place the broken glass in a plastic that seals
• Dispose of the sealed bag through your local hazardous waste program
• In the future when you vacuum the area the next few times, be sure to shut off the air conditioner or heat source
Continue to use your CFL’s, calmly. You will be helping the environment and your wallet.
ABC News, WSYX Columbus, Ohio