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Mercury in Fluorescent Lights

Many people are not aware that fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent light bulbs (ie. ‘curly bulbs’ or CFLs) contain liquid mercury. (By contrast, Lumicrest LED lights contain NO mercury!)

Is mercury really something to be concerned about?
Some facts:

– The mercury from one fluorescent light tube, approx 23 mg. can contaminate 30,000 litres of water above safe drinking limits.
– 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 25 acre lake, rendering the fish in it unsafe to eat for 50 years.

Why is mercury bad?
The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, loss of vision, loss of sensation and tremors.

Bad news for the environment:
The recycling industry estimates that of the hundred of million of CFLs purchased each year only 2% are recycled. That’s millions of CFL’s (containing 4-5 mg mercury EACH) in the trash.

Irresponsibly adding billions of spent and broken CFLs to our landfills is a looming environmental problem of epic proportions.

Hg is the chemical name for Mercury.

Here is a detailed article on how mercury in landfills pollutes the environment:

Environment Canada’s Mercury in the Environment website also provides information about the adverse environmental and health effects of mercury:

For more information on the mercury in CFLs (compact fluorescent lights):

How to clean up if you break a CFL (from the Environment Canada website):

  • If you break a CFL, follow these directions for clean-up:
    • Leave the room
      • Remove people and pets from the room and keep them out of the room during the clean-up process.
      • Avoid stepping on any broken glass.
    • Ventilation
      • Ventilate the room for at least 15 minutes prior to starting clean-up by opening windows and doors to the outdoors. This will ensure that mercury vapour levels are reduced before you start cleaning.
    • Clean-up Directions for Hard and Carpeted Surfaces
      • Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage, as it will spread the mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and may contaminate the vacuum.
      • Wear disposable gloves, if available, to avoid direct contact with mercury and to prevent cuts.
      • Scoop or sweep up the broken pieces and debris with two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard.Β  Do not use a broom.
      • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape or masking tape, to pick up any remaining fine glass or powder.
      • Wipe the area with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe to remove any residual particles.
      • Place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass container with a tight fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour.
    • Carpeting – Steps to Take After the Initial Clean-up
      • If the rug is removable, take it outside, shake and air it out for as long as is practical.
        • The first time you vacuum on installed carpet after the clean-up, shut the door to the room or close off the area as much as possible and ventilate the room in which the lamp was broken by opening the windows and doors to the outside. When the vacuuming is done, remove the bag, wipe the vacuum with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe, and then place the vacuum bag and paper towel in a sealed plastic bag outside.Β  In the case of a canister vacuum, wipe the canister out with a wet paper towel and dispose of the towel as outlined above. Continue to ventilate the room for 15 minutes once the vacuuming is completed.
      • Disposal
        • Immediately place waste material outside of the building in a protected area away from children.
        • CFL contains mercury

          Dispose of the waste at a household hazardous waste location as soon as possible.Β  Check with local, provincial, or territorial authorities about the requirements for recycling and for the location of household hazardous waste depots or pick-up.

        • Do not dispose of the waste in your household trash.
        • For further information on disposal, please contact Environment Canada.
      • Washing
        • Wash your hands after storing and disposing of waste.
      • Additional Information
        • Remove and install the CFL by handling only the base of the lamp to prevent any unnecessary pressure on the glass that may cause it to break.
        • Consider using a drop cloth when replacing a CFL to minimize the chance of breakage should the lamp fall or to protect the flooring and assist in clean-up should the bulb drop and break.
        • Store fluorescent lamps in containers that prevent them from breaking, such as in their original packaging.
        • Consider avoiding the use of CFLs in areas where the lamps may be easily broken.