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Dispelling Common Myths Concerning Mercury in CFLs
Mercury plays an important role in the production of efficient
light in a compact fluorescent light bulb. But there seems to
be widespread misconceptions concerning the exact amount of
mercury in a bulb. While there is a small amount of mercury in
a CFL, the positive benefits of using a CFL versus an incandescent light bulb far outweigh the negative.
To begin, the average compact fluorescent bulb contains about 4 milligrams of mercury. By comparison, the average watch battery contains roughly 25 milligrams of mercury. Despite the small amount, many consumers are still hesitant to purchase fixtures using compact fluorescent light bulbs, but each year the generation of electricity by coal-fired power plants emits 48 tons of mercury into the atmosphere. Because CFLs reduce the amount of electricity the nation’s power plants generate, overall mercury emissions from power plants should be reduced significantly. According to the EPA fact sheet on mercury, a power plant will emit 10 mg of mercury to produce the electricity to operate an incandescent bulb compared with only 2.4 mg to operate a CFL for the same amount of time.
“The truth of the matter is we, as manufacturers, need to be sure that the correct information is being circulated and that the proper means of disposal are made easily accessible for people. Our packaging and instruction sheets inform consumers of the proper ways to dispose of the bulbs. The fact remains that the positive benefits of compact fluorescent bulbs to the environment greatly outweigh the negative,” says David Zizzi, director of product development for Lithona Lighting.
Education is the key to making an informed decision when it comes to purchasing a light fixture. The use of CFLs in our lighting fixtures reduces electricity consumption thus reducing mercury emissions overall, and saves money on energy costs in the long term. Once you know proper safety measures for disposing of a CFL, you can confidently choose an energy-efficient lighting fixture.
|Proper Disposing of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs|
|1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.|
|2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.|
|3. Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.|
|4. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.|
|5. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.|
|6. Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.|
Note: Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
|7. Wash your hands after disposing of the bag. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:|
1. First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
2. 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 two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.