Clean Up of Energy Saving Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Clean Up of Energy Saving Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

What is the risk from mercury contained in these new compact fluorescent light bulbs (energy saving light bulbs)? How should these light bulbs be properly cleaned up and disposed of?

What Are These Light Bulbs Made Of?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are filled with neon or argon gas, a very small amount of mercury and coated with a fluorescent or phosphorescent powder. When activated by electricity, the gas combines with the powder to produce light visible to the human eye.

Can I Be Poisoned By The Mercury?

The amount of mercury in these bulbs is very small; about 1 to 5 mg, compared to 4 g contained in most mercury thermometers. Mercury thermometer spills require a very specific and correct clean up to prevent toxicity, which can be accessed here. The risk of poisoning from the mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs is considered much lower than mercury thermometers.

What if the bulb blows or breaks?

If the bulb stops working ("blows") the mercury is contained within the bulb and poses no risk to health. If the bulb breaks altogether, the greatest risk is likely to be cuts from the glass or breathing difficulties from inhaling the powder. Even if inhaled or on the skin, this amount of mercury is not expected to cause poisoning in a one-off situation.

How Do I Clean Up A Broken Bulb?

I've Cleaned It Up, Now Where Do I Dispose Of It?

You should dispose of the residue in accordance with your local council regulations.

Related Resources
The Safe Use and Disposal of Household Lamps - A brochure detailing safe disposal and clean up of energy saving and mercury containing lamps