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How to clean up a broken Compact Fluorescent Light bulb - A Suburbs Boy Living a Country Life [Pete and Pam's pages (photos and some commentary)] [Pam's journal] [Our company] [My Flickr Photos] [Arisia]
January 9th, 2009
10:40 am

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How to clean up a broken Compact Fluorescent Light bulb

The HappyPete is a Klutz Foundation offers the following “Oops! Pete’s News you Can Use” item.

energy saver CFL bulb

Image by thingermejig via Flickr

I clipped this from the EPA’s Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury FAQ, with some annotations suggested by our friends at Zemanta:

“How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal
guidelines:
1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room
 Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
 Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
 Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
 Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with
metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
 Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
 Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
 Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:
 Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a
sealed plastic bag.
 Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
 If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
 Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic
bag.
4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:
 If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside
the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or
bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
 You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken
CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not
come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
 If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off
with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for
disposal.
5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials
 Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash
pickup.
 Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
 Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not
allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a
local recycling center.
6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
 The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a
window before vacuuming.
 Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after
vacuuming is completed.”

Yes, I am a klutz, thank you for asking.

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[User Picture]
From:kellfire
Date:January 9th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
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Wow, I didn't realize clean up was that intense, glad I haven't broken one yet! I did have to replace a burnt out one for the first time last night, so thank you for the link - which had info about recycling too! Very timely.
From:technoshaman
Date:January 9th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Pete. Actually, I'm the other way; good to know that hazmat can (sometimes) be that simple. (Having dealt with radiation precautions....)

[User Picture]
From:flyingwolf
Date:January 9th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
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one time I was sick I broke a themometer - hit something while shaking it. I was really out of it (had mono) and remember playing with the mercury on the bed - little grey drops of fun stuff...
[User Picture]
From:catsittingstill
Date:January 12th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
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Liquid mercury is not all that dangerous. Except that it can evaporate, and breathing the fumes is Bad, so don't leave it lying around too long. Also Mercury in the environment (streams, drains, the ground, etc) can meet up with bacteria that can methylate it, and methyl mercury is very bad news.

I suspect the major concern with cleaning up after CFLs is the chance of breathing in mercury-contaminated powder.
[User Picture]
From:donnad
Date:January 9th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
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And disposing of burned out bulbs will be a PITA. They will have to go with special HazMat disposal items like old computers and batteries.

I hate the dang things, I can hear them humming and it drives me crazy. I plan to stock up on my Reveals before the change to 100% CFL takes effect. Maybe I can forestall having to use them for a bit longer.
[User Picture]
From:madbodger
Date:January 10th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
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Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room


I first read this as "air out of the room", as in, seal it, hook up a vacuum pump, and remove all the atmosphere (including mercury vapor).

[User Picture]
From:koakako
Date:January 10th, 2009 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Let's be honest here; the amount of mercury is so tiny that it's practically non-hazardous. Dropping a dot of mercury on a hot stove or in an air vent blowing warm air might be a concern, since it's the mercury vapors that are hazardous in enough quantity. (Hence the comment about not sucking the tiny amount of mercury into a warm vacuum, blowing a bit of vapor into the room.)

The cause of the concerned instructions are more for legal haz-mat reasons than for any danger. It might take something like breaking a case-full of CFLs to be actually dangerous - but keeping those things in mind, yes you want to wipe up any loose mercury and toss it in the trash. It's likely not dangerous, but it's also better to not fool around with it. Just in case. Especially if you have pets.

I have experience with this. Working in maintenance, and having done similar/related work all my life, I've broken hundreds of florescent bulbs - and some CFLs. Having researched what goes into them, they've never really been of concern to me or any of my colleagues. *shrug*
[User Picture]
From:catsittingstill
Date:January 12th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, like I said upstream I suspect the major issue is Don't Breathe The Powder, and Don't Leave It Lying Around.
[User Picture]
From:happypete
Date:January 14th, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)

Right...

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I think I managed that pretty well. The EPA instructions may be "over the top," but I can see being too casual with cleanup potentially making things worse--the vacuum, kicking droplets higgledy-piggledy with a broom, etc.
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