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Clean-Up Tips for Mercury-Containing Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 1-May-2008

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are popular, spiral-shaped, energy-saving light bulbs, often touted as "green" alternatives to incandescents.  The new bulbs tend to use much less energy and last several times longer than traditional bulbs, but unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs contain mercury, and when broken they represent a health hazard to consumers.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), broken CFLs can be cleaned-up and disposed of safely, but perhaps not as easily as you might expect.  To reduce the likelihood of personal injury when handling broken compact fluorescent bulbs, be sure to keep the following safety tips in mind:

"Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room

  1. Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  2. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  3. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  1. 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.
  2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  3. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  4. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  1. 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.
  2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  3. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  4. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  1. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
  2. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  3. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

  1. The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
  2. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed."

Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-759-6699.

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