“Eco-Friendly” (Mercury) Fluorescent Bulbs – How to Dispose of Safely

570A patient recently called after finding one of those curly, new fluorescent  “environmentally friendly” bulbs that had broken in her house.  She was concerned as she had heard that they are toxic when exposed to air.

Indeed they are!

The EPA has an excellent website for just this situation and what to do in case of breakage of a compact fluorescent light bulb or CFLs.

After reading all of the pertinent information, I feel as though there must be a good joke here somewhere…

How many decon-haz-mat suits do you need to change a light bulb?

Mercury is a known neurotoxin and a potential carcinogen.  Although the mercury contained in the new bulbs is only about 1% of that found in the old-fashioned thermometers, I feel more comfortable in a house full of tiny people with the good old incandescent bulbs.   Yes, they are not nearly as energy-efficient, but they do make your skin much prettier in the evening!

In case you have a breakage, here are the basics:

1. Remove all people and pets from the vicinity for at least 10 minutes.

2. Turn off your central air conditioning and open windows for several hours.

3. Without touching, carefully place broken parts in an airtight jar/plastic bag.

4. Use duct tape to get up those really tiny bits.

5. Wipe down area with wet paper towels & then place all refuse in the jar/bag.

6. Place the jar/bag outside & then later to the recycling center. (The recycling center – like you need something else to do but this is a hazardous material and must be disposed of properly.)

7.  Avoid vacuuming as this aerosolizes the toxic particles, but if you must then throw out the bag filters with your bulb and clean machine up the wazoo.

8.  Wash your hands.

9.  Go shopping for nicer bulbs.

In the end, light bulb jokes are not all that funny.

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