What’s Inside a Broken CFL & How You Can Stay Safe

What’s Inside a Broken CFL & How You Can Stay Safe

The benefits of CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Bulbs) have been advertised for several years now. Smaller, more energy efficient, and with a lifespan of up to a decade, CFLs are heling to save our planet’s resources, while also helping us all save a bit more money on our utility bill.

However, just like their bigger brothers from the past, these new CFLs are largely still comprised of the same materials that make them function. These materials, while perfectly safe inside their components, can become a serious problem if the bulb breaks in your home.

What’s Inside that Fluorescent Light?

All fluorescent bulbs contain mercury as a vapor inside their glass tube. Older CFLs can contain as much as 3-5mg per bulb. Newer “eco-friendly” fluorescent bulbs have less, but still contain about 1mg. These may seem like small quantities, but because mercury is so poisonous, even trace amounts can lead to health problems in the event of prolonged exposure.

An added concern regarding the mercury found in CFLs is that it is in vapor form. When a bulb breaks, that vapor can be dispersed over a wide area in a short amount of time. Even breaking one bulb can exceed the Federal guidelines for mercury exposure.

What Should You Do if it Breaks?

A broken fluorescent bulb has happened to most people. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s better to know how to safely navigate through the situation than to be careless in your cleanup or let your fears get the best you.

1. Open a window and leave the area. When you initially break a bulb inside a bedroom, the first thing you should do is ventilate the area as soon as possible to dissipate as much of the released mercury vapor as possible. Open a window, close the door and leave the area for at least an hour.

2. Get you cleaning supplies ready. You’ll be handling glass, so make sure you have thick soled shoes. Wear long-sleeves if you can and jeans. You don’t want your hands touching any residual mercury, so gloves are a necessity.

3. Store fragments in a sealed container. When collecting the broken fragments, don’t simply put them in a plastic bag and throw them in the kitchen garbage. Plastic is porous and any mercury vapor still present can leak out even if you tie it up. It’s recommended you find a glass jar you can seal tightly to store all the pieces in.

4. Get information about disposal. Mercury is very harmful to the environment and must be disposed of properly. Depending on what city, county, or state you live in, there may be a different agency that deals with the proper disposal of items like CFLs. You may even be able to contact your local home-improvement chain to see if they can point you in the right direction.

A Fluorescent Tube Guard is the best Solution

A fluorescent tube guard can be a great way to prevent a lamp from breaking in the first place. It’s simply an acrylic plastic sleeve that fits over the bulb. The great thing about tube guards is that in the event your CFL does break, the fragments will remain inside the tube guard – leading to less vapor emissions and vastly easier cleanup. Get yours in a variety of colors at Diffuser Specialist today.

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