Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Compact Bulbs Need Special Disposal

Because they contain mercury, compact flourescent lightbulbs should not throwin out with the regular trashAs compact fluorescent bulbs gain favor across the country, it's important to remember that they contain mercury and mercury is harmful to humans.

Because even though CFLs contain small amounts of mercury -- less than 4 milligrams per bulb -- it's still enough mercury to cause brain damage.

If you're interested, this 4-minute video from the University of Calgary shows how mercury damages neurons in the brain.

But don't let the presence of mercury stop you from using CFLs -- they are much more positive than negative if you exercise good care.

The Environment Protection Agency provides some basic handling tips:

  1. CFLs are made from glass.  Therefore, screw and unscrew the bulb using the base and not the bulb.
  2. Never force a CFL into a light socket.
  3. When the bulb burns out, take it to a specially-designated recycling center in your area.  Do not throw out a CFL with the "normal" trash.

In addition, the EPA drafted guidelines for dealing with broken bulbs within a household.  Among the recommendations: Don't wash your mercury-covered clothing, and don't vacuum up the poison.  This is somewhat counter-intuitive for most people.

The EPA's review of CFL safety is 3 pages long and can be viewed on its Web site

CFLs are more expensive than traditional bulbs but offer long-term savings in both energy and environment costs.  And, with common sense care, CFLs pose no household health risks.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill for this article. I never knew this fact about these bulbs. After reading the article I went home and read the packaging on my bulbs but it was so small I initially missed it. I'll be sure to spread the word to my friends and clients.