Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't Vacuum that Broken CFL!

Now that U.S. legislation has passed to phase out incandescent lightbulbs between 2012-2014, we can expect demand for CFL, LED, and other alternatives to increase.

One drawback for current CFL bulbs is that they contain hazardous mercury. Have you thought about what to do in case a bulb breaks? From the Maine Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management comes the following guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb.

"The most important thing to remember is to never use a vacuum. A standard vacuum will spread mercury containing dust throughout the area as well as potentially contaminating the vacuum. What you should do is:

  • Keep people and pets away from the breakage area so that the mercury in the powder inside the bulb is not accidentally tracked into other areas.

  • Ventilate the area by opening windows.

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, safety glasses, old clothing or coveralls, and a dust mask (if you have one) to keep bulb dust and glass from being inhaled.

  • Carefully remove the larger pieces and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top and gasket seal like a canning jar.

  • Next, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use a disposable broom and dustpan or two stiff pieces of paper to scoop up pieces.

  • Put all material into the glass container. Pat the area with the sticky side of duct, packing or masking tape. Wipe the area with a damp cloth or paper towels to pick up fine particles.
    Put all waste and materials used to clean up the bulb in the glass container and label it “Universal Waste - broken lamp”.

  • Take the container for recycling as universal waste. To determine where your town has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your town office or check out the Maine Department of Environmental Protection website at
The next time you replace a bulb, consider putting a drop cloth on the floor so that any accidental breakage can be easily cleaned up."

Additional information can be found at

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